It was not all doom and gloom for Bangladesh during their six-wicket loss in the first T20I against Sri Lanka. Perhaps for the first time on Sri Lanka's current tour of the country, Bangladesh's mantra matched their deeds. The aggression they wanted to show in the ODI tri-series in January quickly gave way to over-aggression and led to their downfall. The positive intent they talked about in the Test series was lacking in the pitch selection in Chittagong and was nowhere to be found in Dhaka.
Yesterday, however, the batsmen displayed the fearless approach that skipper Mahmudullah Riyad wanted from them as they racked up 193 for five in 20 overs. It was their highest total in T20Is, surpassing the 190 for five against Ireland in Belfast in July 2018, but that may be the most painful aspect of this defeat because Sri Lanka proved that even Bangladesh's best is not good enough as 20 balls remained when they romped home.
It would be hard to argue that Bangladesh's batting could have been better than it was, given the personnel. Soumya Sarkar, coming into the national setup for the first time since the tour of South Africa last year, went after the bowling immediately after Mahmudullah chose to bat at the toss. Debutant and Soumya's opening partner Zakir Hasan seemed a little out of his depth, but that did not stop him from trying to go after the bowling. His innings may have been a simple 10 off nine balls, but the four he hit to end the first over off Shehan Madushanka sent a message down the order that regardless of if you are one of the four debutants or a senior, there would be no compromising with the team plan to cash in on a belter of a Mirpur wicket.
Soumya's dismissal at the halfway stage after a maiden T20I half-century could very easily have set the cat among the pigeons as had happened so often before. 100 for two in 10.1 overs could easily have led to a middling total instead of one that was just made to look so. Afif Hossain's dismissal on the same score in the same over hinted at a repeat of history, but Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad, the senior statesmen of the side, put on a 73-run fourth-wicket stand in 7.5 overs that was replete with exquisite shots from the two stylish players.
The bowling was not so hot -- a quite obvious conclusion if you see the scorecard. Missing their lynchpin in the injured Shakib Al Hasan, it is natural that the bowling would not be their strong suit. But to just focus on the Tigers' deficiencies would be to ignore the immense talents put on display by Kusal Mendis, Dasun Shanaka and that scourge of Bangladesh known as Thisara Perera. Sri Lanka played out 31 dot balls in 16.4 overs while Bangladesh played 34 in 20 overs. The difference was that the tourists hit eight sixes to Bangladesh's five. The Tigers' old handicap of not having batsmen who can hit the big ones from the start came back to haunt them once more.
Medium pacer Mohammad Saifuddin in particular displayed complete lack of understanding of how to bowl to aggressive batsmen, while debutant left-arm spinner Nazmul Islam did himself no harm with figures of 25 for two in four overs.
The distance between the two teams will not close much before the second and final match in Sylhet, and it seems that it is time to accept that Sri Lanka just have Bangladesh's number on this tour.
When it comes to T20Is, opener Soumya Sarkar is a world away from the uncertain batsman he has become in the other formats. Coming back into the national setup after being dropped from the ODI and Test squads, he picked up from where he left off in South Africa, where he hit 40s in each of the two T20Is in an otherwise grim tour for Bangladesh. The talented left-hander gave an indication of his range by hitting three boundaries on the trot in the third over from Sri Lanka left-arm pacer Isuru Udana, hitting an inside-out drive through covers before using the natural angle to hook and then flick to the fine leg fence. But the six he hit off Akila Dananjaya in the sixth over gave full notice of his ability. He danced down the wicket and the bowler nearly yorked him, but Soumya dug it out with timing so sweet that the ball carried beyond the long on ropes.
Having just reached his first T20I fifty, Soumya was looking to assert his dominance and stick it to the Lankans. He was however dismissed in his first foray down that path and worse than that, it was a painful end. Attempting to reverse sweep a Jeevan Mendis delivery in the 11th over, he was beaten by the googly and the ball hit him where the pain is temporary but intense. Although a blow to the nether regions is often followed by one or two minutes of the player on the floor, Soumya, having been given out, had to be assisted hurriedly off the field. It was too bad that the pain was overpowering as the decision would have been overturned had he reviewed because the ball struck him outside the line of leg stump. It would also have been a great image to see a batsman on his back and cringing in pain while making the review sign.
COBRA IN MIRPUR
There was special interest surrounding one of the four debutants for Bangladesh yesterday. Left-arm spinner Nazmul Islam has been plying his trade in the domestic circuit for nearly eight years. But it was in the Bangladesh Premier League that he became known for a certain kind of celebration after taking wickets. So everyone was waiting with bated breath when Bangladesh started their defence of 193 and Nazuml opened the innings. The Sri Lankans got off to a flier, but Nazmul's wily spin soon came to the rescue. He had Danushka Gunathilaka stumped by Mushfiqur Rahim in the fifth over and even before the TV umpire sent the batsman on his way, Nazmul gave the crowd what they were waiting for, both hands in front of his face and doing the snake jig. The Cobra had arrived.