The Bangladesh innings of 239 all out against Pakistan yesterday, leaving overs unused for the fourth time in five matches of the ongoing Asia Cup, revealed much of what is ailing Bangladesh batting. Mushfiqur Rahim was once again brilliant and extremely unlucky to be the first Bangladesh batsman to be out on 99 in international cricket. While he responded to the terrible setback of losing Shakib Al Hasan before the match by absorbing all the pressure, the performance of the rest of the top order raised serious concerns about Bangladesh's bench strength and also the willingness of those outside the experienced batsmen to respond to a match situation.
On a pitch that had a bit of grass, none of the Pakistan pacers bowled an unplayable ball except a Shaheen Shah Afridi delivery to Mohammad Mithun in the sixth over, when the left-arm pacer's delivery pitched outside leg and jagged away outside off, completely opening the batsmen up. Yet Bangladesh were three wickets down for 12 runs by the end of the fifth over. With Shakib out of the tournament one may have thought that the openers would try to preserve wickets to compensate for the hole in the middle order. However, Soumya Sarkar -- playing his first ODI in almost a year -- went for the hook the first opportunity he got when Junaid Khan bounced him in the third over, perishing because he was too late on the shot.
If Soumya's error revealed thoughtlessness, Mominul Haque's dismissal exposed the lack of bench strength. After hitting a boundary off Shaheen Shah, he was beaten by pace in the next ball by a bowler who, while nippy, is not the fastest going around. In the next over Liton was foiled by a tactic as elementary as Junaid coming around the wicket. To a straight ball that was homing in on off and middle, the opener tried to play towards mid on and had his stumps disturbed.
Like he did in the first match against Sri Lanka on September 15, Mushfiqur stitched together a face-saving 144-run partnership with Mohammad Mithun. With his team seriously hurt by the new absence of Shakib and the old one of opener Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur refrained from any of the brain fades that saw him get out reverse-sweeping against India and run out in suicidal fashion against Afghanistan. The same could not be said for Mithun, who repeated his error from the Sri Lanka match by playing a rash shot just when the bowling was at their mercy.
The remaining six wickets could add just 83 runs. As has been happening in every match that Bangladesh have not completely lost the plot in, one of the senior pros have stood up and made up for the rest.