Tigers complete 5-0 whitewash

A calm captain’s innings from Habibul Bashar led Bangladesh to a tense three-wicket victory in Dhaka, completing a five-nil series victory over Zimbabwe. The tourists’ batting again failed to materialise, but Bangladesh made heavy work of a paltry target and slid to 163 for six at one point, before Bashar and teenager Mushfiqur Rahim steadied the nerves in a match-winning stand of 34.

Shahriar Nafees again ensured that Bangladesh made a strong start, feasting on the wayward Zimbabwean seamers as he clipped his way to a rapid 33. Once more he was more than ably assisted by the dourer Mehrab Hossain jnr and their flourishing opening partnership yielded 86 before Nafees became the first of Gary Brent’s four victims. Bowling accurate, stump-to-stump medium pace well suited to the slow, low Asian wickets, Brent trapped both Nafees and Aftab Ahmed leg before in the space of three balls.

The series won, Mohammad Ashraful was given the opportunity to impress at number four, relieving Saqibul Hasan of his usual role. But the innings stagnated as he failed break the shackles of Brent or Prosper Utseya’s off-breaks, and with Mehrab content to block, Bangladeshi nerves began to fray. Eventually both were bowled by Brent: Ashraful cramped for room while cutting and Mehrab undone by a delivery that kept a touch low on 45. From 114 for four, Bashar and Hasan dug in securely, putting on a valuable stand of 25 and navigating the potentially dangerous Utseya.

However when Hasan was run out for 13, attempting to capitalise on a second run off an overthrow and the plan to inject some pace into the chase through Mashrafe Mortaza backfired through a six-ball duck, Bangladesh were beginning to crumble and Zimbabwe appeared favourites with the Tigers requiring 31 with just three wickets remaining. Cue Rahim and Bashar, a mixture of youthful maturity and experienced grit, to guide Bangladesh from a wavering 163 for seven to victory with an over to spare. Again the lack of any real depth to the Zimbabwean attack was exposed: there was little support for Utseya and Brent, who finished with four for 22, with the likes of Elton Chigumbura and Christopher Mpofu, so impressive in the previous match, conceding heavily at critical points in the game.

Earlier Zimbabwe had struggled yet again to post a testing target as another disciplined display in the field from Bangladesh cut partnerships as they began to blossom and provided few ‘four’ balls. Stuart Matsikenyeri held the innings together with a solid half-century from the top of the order, but support was sporadic at best. Tino Mawayo, replacing the rested Brendan Taylor, fell early on, before Matsikenyeri was involved in encouraging stands of 63 with Chamu Chibhabha, who made 27, and 47 with Chigumbura. Runs however remained at a premium, even with Mohammad Rafique and Shahadat Hossain rested, and when Mehrab broke the second partnership, removing Chigumbura for his first ODI wicket, Zimbabwe collapsed.

From what had appeared a solid base at 138 for two, the losses of Chigumbura for 27 and Matsikenyeri for 75 derailed Zimbabwe. Although Sean Williams, Mluleki Nkala and Keith Dabengwa chipped in with useful scores, there was no experienced head to control the overs at the death, a fact brutally exposed by Mashrafe Mortaza, who finished with three for 36. As so often in low-scoring affairs, the final result rested heavily on the discipline of the two bowling attacks: that Bangladesh’s bowlers conceded just six wides and no-balls while Zimbabwe conceded 30 demonstrates just how much control the home attack was able to exert.

Zimbabwe 193-8 (50 overs)
Stuart Matsikenyeri 75
Mashrafe Mortaza 3-36

Bangladesh won by 3 wickets

Bangladesh 197-7 (49 overs)
Shahriar Nafees 33, Mehrab Hossain jnr 45, Habibul Bashar 32*
Gary Brent 4-22

Man of the Match: Gary Brent (Zimbabwe)
Man of the Series: Shahriar Nafees (Bangladesh)

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