This was a match of many moods and fluctuating emotions. Eventually a packed Sher-e-Bangla Stadium went on a celebration overdrive. The hosts showed terrific resolve, both in batting and bowling, to down Sri Lanka. The result attested Bangladesh’s progress in the shortest format, where they have sometimes seemed clueless.
Sabbir Rahman scripted this win with an excellent 80 off 54 balls. For the first 10 innings Rahman played in T20 internationals, he had only one half-century. In the next seven innings, he got has two more, besides three 40-plus scores. The Rajsahi boy, who made his international debut two years ago, is developing late. He gave a good account of himself against India, playing a lone hand and scoring 44 off 32 balls. But this was a game-changing knock.
Rahman came very close to surpass Tamim Iqbal’s 88 – individual highest by a Bangladesh cricketer in T20s. He also missed out on being the first Bangladesh cricketer to have a T20 international ton. But that hardly mattered.
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Fearlessness was central to Rahman’s batting. His counterattack against Nuwan Kulasekara was breathtaking. The experienced Sri Lankan fast bowler was fresh from Soumya Sarkar’s scalp in the previous over. The success came on the heels of Angelo Mathews dismissing Mohammad Mithun in the very first over of the match. But Rahman decided to take the attack to the opposition. He whipped Kulasekara to the mid-wicket boundary for a four followed by a six and two fours in the next three balls. Sri Lanka were taken aback. “I tried to play ball-by-ball. After two-three wickets there was pressure and I just tried something different. I played to my strengths,” Rahman said after the match.
Mushfiqur Rahim fell prey to a mix up in the next over but Rahman was unfazed. He turned his attention to medium-pacer Thisara Perera and clobbered him for three straight fours. It was clean hitting and top-class pressure management. Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah, too, contributed well to take their team to 147/7 – par score against an iffy Sri Lankan batting.
But at 76/1 after 10.5 overs the Islanders seemed to be coasting. Their premier batsman, Dinesh Chandimal, dropped on nought by Sarkar at second slip, was batting judiciously. Shehan Jayasuriya, too, was moving along at a fair clip.
Together, they had added 56 runs for the second wicket. Then, Chandimal did a Mike Gatting and reverse swept a shortish delivery from Mahmudullah straight to Taskin Ahmed at deep point. Shakib fooled Jayasuriya in the next over with Nurul Hasan completing an easy stumping. It was the beginning of the end for Sri Lanka. They unravelled soon after in scarcely unbelievable fashion, losing the next six wickets for 39 runs.
A brilliant Mustafizur Rahman ensured cancelled out any death-overs slip for Bangladesh. The pressure he created resulted in Al-Amin Hossain getting a couple of wickets at the other end. The 23-run win was well deserved.