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Tigers rediscover their roar

If the Sri Lankans showered runs after rain, Bangladesh overpowered at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo to pull off a magnificent five-wicket win yesterday and light up the Nidahas Trophy T20I tri-series.

It all boiled down to the last over with Bangladesh needing nine runs. On strike was Mushfiqur Rahim and the right-hander was on a mission to bury the ghost of that heart-stopping one-run defeat against India during the ICC T20 World Cup in 2016. Already limping with cramps, he drove the first ball from Thisara Perera down to deep cover for two runs. The next ball was a wide off-stump yorker that the little right-hander smashed over point for four. This time he did not wield his willow like he did against India in a way as if victory had been achieved. He checked his attacking instincts and emotions and drove the next ball to wide mid-on and initially thought of taking a single. But a misfield allowed him to regain the strike with Bangladesh needing one run from the last three deliveries. He pushed the fourth ball softly to the vacant mid-wicket region before bursting into wild celebrations. He also did a bit of the snake dance, perhaps in an attempt to show how insulting it was when the Lankans did it after their 2-0 T20I series win in Sylhet last month.

Mushfiqur was unconquered on a 35-ball 72 as Bangladesh posted their first 200-plus score in T20Is and completed their highest run-chase in the shortest format — they scored 215 for five in 19.4 overs in chase of Sri Lanka’s 214 for six. It was more than just a win for the Tigers after a dismal run of form across all formats since the sudden departure of their coach Chandika Hathurusingha after the South Africa series last year.

After this win Bangladesh are now on equal footing with Sri Lanka and India — all have one win each going into the return legs.

The pocket-size dynamo smashed four fours and five sixes in a flawless innings which saw him score the second-fastest half-century by a Bangladeshi.

After rain stopped just in time to guarantee a game, stand-in Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah Riyad thought it would be wise to bowl on the rain-soaked pitch. But hosts Sri Lanka had other ideas in mind and they showered a different type of rain with the two Kusals — Mendis (57 off 30 balls) and Perera (74 off 47 balls) leading the run-fest on a beautiful wicket.

Refreshingly, the Tigers more than matched that with a downpour of their own. Opening the innings with Tamim Iqbal, right-handed Liton Das smashed a 19-ball 43 with five sixes and a couple of boundaries as Bangladesh scored 74 in the first six Powerplay overs. Tamim also struck a belligerent 47 off 29 balls as Bangladesh reached 103 for 2 after ten overs, from which point they never looked back.

The introduction of Liton in place of Soumya Sarkar was a master-stroke from the Bangladesh team management. The right-hander not only evocatively neutralised the off-spin of Akila Dhananjaya early in the innings, but also showed his quality as a clean hitter of the ball.  Tamim also played beautifully in an opening stand that scored 74 runs in the first six Powerplay overs.

Earlier, the home side walloped their way to a massive 214 for six in their share of 20 overs in what was the third game of the Nidahas Trophy T20I tri-series. They were just short of what they did against India in the first six Powerplay overs. They stroked 70, five runs shy of their exploits against India, against a three-pronged Bangladesh pace attack. Rubel Hossain went for runs and so did an otherwise miserly Mustafizur Rahman, who took the wicket of Danuska Gunathilaka (26).

However, the listless among the trio was Taskin Ahmed, who went for a staggering 22 runs in his second over. Kusal Mendis started from where he had left off in Sylhet last month, when the Lankans sealed the two-match T20I series 2-0. The right-hander scored a 30-ball 57 that contained five sweetly timed sixes and a couple of boundaries before becoming one of the two quick victims of Mahmudullah’s off-spin.

Left-hander Kusal Perera then stepped up to more than match his fabulous 66 against India, a match that his side won by five wickets last week. Perera struck a 48-ball 74 studded with eight fours and two sixes. He was dismissed in the final over, mistiming a cutter from Mustafizur. But by that time the Lankans crossed the 200-run mark.

Upul Tharanga provided the late spark with a 15-ball 32. Mustafizur picked up three wickets for 48 runs while Taskin went for 40 runs in his three overs and Rubel conceded 45 in his four overs. Interestingly, Mahmudullah with two for 15 in his two overs was the most economical among the Bangladesh bowlers.