When a captain says his team were 10-15 runs short even after notching their highest total as Mahmudullah Riyad did yesterday after a score of 193 for five resulted in a four-wicket loss with 20 balls to spare, it does not bode well for future matches against the opposition.
At the halfway stage, after Soumya Sarkar's 32-ball 51, Mushfiqur Rahim's unbeaten 44-ball 66 and the skipper's 31-ball 43 not many at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur would have said what Mahmudullah did after the match. There was no real slowdown after Soumya's wicket as Bangladesh realised 93 runs in the last 10 overs and 54 in the last five, but Sri Lanka still made the target seem less than it was.
“It was a good wicket and although the batsmen did well, it would have been better if we scored 200 or more than 200,” said Mahmudullah after the match, who said at the presentation ceremony that they were 10-15 runs short. “Even then it was a good score, but the bowlers could not bowl on a good length. I won't say that the line was not good. The most important thing was that we couldn't take early wickets.
In a refreshing change, he did not bring out the tired line of Bangladesh not having big hitters as an excuse. “We also have some powerful hitters – Ariful [Haque] is batting at the end, I am at number five, we also have Rumman [Sabbir Rahman]. We have the ability.”
While the batsmen did bat close to the best of their abilities, the bowlers were indeed found wanting during a punishing chase. Mohammad Saifuddin, whose economy rate now stands at an eye-watering 10.92 after five matches, was taken for 33 in two overs by Kusal Mendis and Co. The captain however stood up for his young all-rounder.
“I think it was a bad match; maybe he could not execute his plans. He was trying, but the field setup that he had and the length I wanted him to bowl, he couldn't do that. He will work on it.
“Saifuddin will win us matches one day; I believe that. He will learn as he goes along. We should not place the blame solely on his shoulders. We win as a team and we lose as a team.”
Mahmudullah then hit upon what can be seen as an apt summation of their year so far, during which they lost a tri-series final and a two-Test series against the same opponents. “At some points the batsmen are failing, at others the bowlers are failing. We are not able to fire at once – and that is the reason [behind the results], nothing else.”
Mahmudullah was also not playing the inexperience card as a new-look Bangladesh team fielded four debutants, saying that bowlers like Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain and even Saifuddin had played enough matches. He gave credit to debutant Nazmul Hossain who managed to fill the enormous shoes of the injured Shakib Al Hasan with figures of two for 25 from four overs.
Opener Danushka Gunathilaka hit a 15-ball 30 to give Sri Lanka the perfect start in a 53-run opening stand in 4.5 overs with Kusal Mendis, who played the decisive hand in the match with a furious 27-ball 53. Gunathilaka had some sympathy for Bangladesh's bowlers.
“I can't say that [they bowled badly] because the wicket was so good to bat. They didn't do variation much, I guess but our batters did really well because we were trying to attack them.”
He was also not accepting Shakib's absence as an excuse. “He is a very key player for Bangladesh but you can't say that because in our team also there are three injuries. Asela [Gunaratne] got injured, Angelo [Mathews] and Kusal Janith [Perera]. It always happens when we play cricket. It was a bad thing for Bangladesh, but we want to play cricket, that's all.”