Tom Latham is a flamboyant stroke-maker and a terrific accumulator of runs. Even when he is not able to deal with boundaries, he would fetch runs by rotating the strike. He would keep the fielders and captains guessing about the escalating run rate and if he is given a lifeline, mind you, he would go on to score big.
In the third ball of the sixth match of tri-series in Ireland, Nasir Hossain dropped an absolute dolly off Mashrafe Mortaza’s delivery which simply triggered anger among the fans and critics. At this level, an international cricketer should not drop such an easy catch, but New Zealand did not mind as Latham stitched a dangerous partnership with Neil Broom.
Both of them were scoring at almost six runs per over. While Broom played the role of a sheet anchor, Latham kept on cracking boundaries and manoeuvred the strike regularly to keep the Bangladeshi fielders under pressure. A big score was on the cards and Mashrafe was searching for a breakthrough and kept on using his options, but Latham was like an unmovable object. It seemed, even an atom bomb could not deter him from scoring runs at six/over.
In the last ball of 28th over, Latham pivoted on the front foot and swung Mashrafe through the line to fetch a boundary in the cow corner of the field. New Zealand moved to 145 for 1 and was beautifully poised to script an assault in the death overs as they know, Bangladesh are not consistent enough in death overs.
Mashrafe attacked in the middle overs
Nasir Hossain, the villain of the day so far, provided the breakthrough in the first ball of 29th over as Broom tried to clear the square leg, but Mashrafe took the catch just above his head. Finally, the partnership was broken and Mashrafe did not wait further but thought of searching for wickets rather than defending. As, according to Imran Khan, if the wickets fall, automatically the run rate drops and such attacking options help in a 50-over format more than stopping the flow of runs by setting a defensive field.
Mashrafe threw the ball to Mustafizur Rahman in the next over. His field setting was attacking and hinted, he was not interested in stopping the runs, but to fetch wickets at any cost.
Fizz hardly looked to defend as he landed most of his deliveries on an attacking line and length. Two of the balls were wide of off so that Ross Taylor goes for the kill and fell in the trap while the others were in the middle-and-leg and the plan was to slant it away after landing and squared-up Taylor.
That particular over pressurised Latham who thought of having a go in the next over where Mashrafe persisted with Nasir. Yet again, the field was attacking. Latham tried to play a shot on the onside casually, but Nasir disturbed his offstump and Mashrafe’s ploy to attack started to work wonderfully.
Pressurising Taylor and Anderson
Corey Anderson joined Taylor and as both of them are absolute murders of the cricket ball. Mashrafe thought of keeping them under pressure so that he can dismiss one of them to halt the build-up of another threatening partnership.
Even though Fizz was bowling with an attacking intent and Nasir’s slowish offspinners made things tough, still, persisting with the same bowler against the aggressive stroke-makers, at times backfires as it may allow them to get used to the bowlers quickly and settle down easily.
Mashrafe thought of unleashing the combination of Shakib Al Hasan and Rubel Hossain from the 37th over. Shakib removed Anderson while Rubel was outstanding at the other end.
In my opinion, Rubel is one of the best pace bowlers in the history of Bangladesh cricket and the finest options when the matter is about taking wickets and building pressure at the other end via an aggressive intent. He was fast and never stepped back in dishing out the short balls against Taylor while even in the middle overs, he was keeping the ball full in the middle and leg and at times he was delivering some half volleys to set the batsmen up. If leaking some runs tend to gift wickets, it’s not all a bad option.
Bangladesh stranglehold the Kiwis in the last ten overs
While New Zealand slowed the pace of the ball in the previous encounter against Tigers, Mashrafe thought differently. He only thought of attacking from both ends. In the last ten overs, Bangladesh’s bowling was all about an aggressive intent – mixing the deliveries smartly, but not lessening the pace and persist with an attacking field.
Mash returned to bowl in the 42nd over and removed Jimmy Neesham while Shakib’s persistence with an attacking line and length helped to dismiss the dangerous Mitchell Santner. When the dangerous Colin Munro was dismissed by Mashrafe, New Zealand already lost its mojo to go big in the last five overs. Mashrafe still attacked in the last four overs by unleashing the Rubel and Fizz combination with an attacking field. New Zealand could add only 22 runs, which was not enough by their standards.
Tamim Iqbal and Sabbir Rahman made the chase an entertaining and almost a cakewalk until and unless the Bangladesh middle-order made the weather heavy, but in the end, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad did not let any damage to happen.
It was Bangladesh’s first ever win against New Zealand away from home and it might not have been possible had Mashrafe’s attacking captaincy not halt the New Zealand power-hitters in the middle and death overs.