‘Take me down to the Bulawayo city where the pitch is brown and the bowlers are shoddy. Oh won’t you please take me home…’ Tamim Iqbal, the swashbuckling opener of Bangladesh still hums today, especially when he recalls what happened on August 16, 2009.
Bangladesh faced Zimbabwe in the 4th ODI of the series, and saw the home team, courtesy of Charles Coventry’s unbeaten knock of 194 from only 156 balls pile up 312 for the loss of eight wickets in 50 overs batting first.
With the series on the line, Zimbabwe needed to put up a good show and deny the Tigers their second bilateral ODI series victory in the African country. Charles Coventry was the protagonist in the play in the most commanding manner (the second highest score by his teammate in 312 was Matsikenyeri’s 37 runs).
It was tragic that Coventry missed out going past Saeed Anwar’s scintillating 194 against India at Chennai, but as Tamim and Junaid Siddique stepped out of the dressing room to chase down the mammoth total, the stage was set for one of the most historic moments for Bangladesh cricket team.
Before August 16, 2009, Bangladesh had never chased down a 300 plus total in ODI cricket.
The scoreboard pressure on top of the strenuous match conditions broke the back of Bangladesh’s innings more often than not when they had to chase big totals against any team.
Yet, there was a sense of optimism among the Bangladeshi supporters, many had that gut feeling simply because they saw their beloved team smash 320 runs batting first only five days ago.
Bangladesh needed a matured knock, a matured and substantial knock top of the order if they wanted to overtake the home team’s total.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man
Tamim Iqbal’ hour to shine, and show his critics and the cynic spectators that he could shepherd the innings and take his team home came as the anti-climax to the brutal assault from Coventry earlier in the day.
A masterclass in playing straight in the ‘V’, Tamim’s incredible knock of 154 runs from 138 balls (seven 4, six 6s) made it relatively easy for Bangladesh to win the match with 13 balls to spare.
"Over the last few months I have often breezed through to 20s and 30s and then played a rash shot to get out. The difference yesterday was that I could pace my innings exactly the way I wanted and according to the need of the hour." Tamim told the press.
Tamim’s critics were justified to the point that the Bangladesh opener always played one shot too many early in his innings, but during the 4th ODI against Zimbabwe, Tamim made a point to correct himself.
As Junaid Siddique began the chase of 312 runs with all guns blazing, Tamim could settle down with singles and twos as well as the occasional loose delivery on offer.
During the 68-run stand with Junaid, Tamim was comparatively sedate, and scored 26 runs from 31 balls with only two boundaries to his name.
Mupariwa and Chigumbura were tidy with their line, and didn’t allow Tamim too much width to score off.
However, Tamim didn’t become frustrated with limited scoring opportunities and was patient at the crease.
"When you are chasing 300 plus there is a lot of stress on the mind and the natural tendency is to go and start hitting. But he [Siddons] never put us under any pressure," said Tamim.
"We were told that we will get there easily if we play normal cricket. The coach also said that it was not a problem if we got to 50 in the first 10 overs as long as we didn't lose too many wickets.” Bangladesh opener stated.
With the Zimbabwe bowlers bowling straight, Tamim brought his supple wrist into play with numerous wristy dabs and flicks on the leg-side, particularly through mid-wicket and mid-on.
When provided width, either by the spinners or pacers, Tamim cashed in and made his cut-shot useful time after time. But those flashy strokes from his blade were few and far between among the countless straight-batted shots down the ground.
After the dismissal of Junaid, Mohammad Ashraful came to the crease, looked horribly out of form, poked and prodded 10 runs from 28 balls, and only managed to push up the required run-rate above seven when he departed.
Tamim didn’t buckle under the scoreboard pressure, and found a reliable partner in Raqibul Hasan. Together they scored 119 runs from 118 balls, and basically cemented the foundation for a famous triumph at Bulawayo.
Tamim reached his half century with a single down the ground, having played 61 balls with two 4s in his innings. He played most of his scoring shots in front of the wicket, and scored 124 runs in the arc between point and midwicket.
While the required run-rate climbed up steadily, Tamim was extremely selective in using the long handle, and only opened up his shoulders after he reached fifty.
The obstinate and watchful Tamim now began to step on the gas and he did it damn well!
Poor Waller was hammered for two sixes and a four in the 21st over of the game…and the tempo of Bangladesh’s chase changed gears.
After a huge six of Raymond Price, in the over after next, Tamim became far more busy at the crease, as he used the huge outfield at Bulawayo to his advantage.
By placing the ball in the gap at the proper pace, Tamim converted ones into twos, and twos into threes quite regularly as he went closer to his hundred.
Tamim’s 154 consisted of 60 singles, ten 2s, two 3s, eight 4s and six 6s. All but two of the boundaries came after he crossed fifty.
After Tamim reached 80, he didn’t look to take any undue risk, and played it safe until he reached triple figures. Bowling from Utseya and co was quite tight in the middle overs, and didn’t allow the Bangladesh opener to do too much damage.
Once Tamim raised his bat to the crowd and his teammates, and soaked in the moment of this 2nd ODI hundred, he decided enough is enough…it’s time to win the game which was in danger of meandering around.
Hamilton Masakadza was the first to suffer at the hands of Tamim after the Tigers opener reached his ton, and was taken apart for 14 runs.
At 116, Tamim was reprieved by Chigumbura who dropped him at long-off. As the Zimbabwe bowlers began to tire and bowl on both sides of the wicket, Tamim went on his merry way…
Now the dot-balls disappeared and runs began to flow profusely from both ends as Tamim had the measure of the opposing bowlers and milked them with ease.
Mupariwa and Chigumbura both conceded boundaries late in the chase to Tamim, and Bangladesh were in the driver’s seat with only ten overs to go and sixty-something runs needed to win.
After two cameo partnerships of 33 runs with Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim’s fatigue brought his downfall as the tired batsman was dismissed by Raymond Price for a majestic 154 in little over three hours.
Tamim's 154 is the highest individual score for Bangladesh against Zimbabwe and turned a record chase into a breezy affair.
He credited coach Jamie Siddons for helping instill a calmness before Bangladesh began their innings.
Bangladesh opener dedicated his splendid knock to his late father and explained how hard work brought back his scoring touch again.
As the great Gary Player said, the harder you worked, the luckier you get. Tamim Iqbal made good use of this timeless mantra.
If you haven’t enjoyed reading this article till now, then count your stars, it is over. Now you can let the Pink Floyd experience take you away…