With three consecutive victories, Bangladesh won their first-ever bilateral series against Australia with two matches still to play, by securing a 10-run win in last Friday's (Aug. 6) 3rd T20I in Mirpur.
It was probably the closest game of the series, going right down to the last over. Australia needed to score 22 runs off the last six balls bowled by Mahedi Hasan, but they only managed 11. Alex Carey smashed a six off the first ball, bringing the equation to 16 needed off 5, but young Mahedi came back well, notwithstanding a no-ball that could've proved costly.
The win was really set up however by some outstanding bowling from Mustafizur Rahman in the previous over, when with Australia needing 23 off 2 overs to get back in the series, The Fizz conceded just a single run, bamboozling the batsmen with his clever variations and significantly taking the pressure off Mahedi for the last over.
It was another exceptional performance with the ball by Mustafiz - his previous over, the 17th of the Australian innings, had also gone for just 4 runs. He ended with figures of 0/9 off his 4 overs - 15 dot balls and 9 singles. And even then he was unlucky, as he should have had the wicket of Ben McDermott, drafted in to open the batting for the visitors today, but Shoriful Islam dropped a dolly at deep fine leg.
Earlier, Bangladesh won the toss and opted to bat first and scored 127 for nine wickets in 20 overs. Once again it was tough going for the batsmen in Mirpur, where the pitches have not allowed the ball to come on to the bat throughout the series. Predictably, the eventual 4-1 scoreline in the series drew much talk about the square at Mirpur. Although this may not have been ideal preparation for the World Cup to be held later this year, nothing can take away from a triumph against Australia, the premier cricketing nation, despite their recent form, which has been indifferent - certainly falling short of their usual high standards.
In Friday's third T20I, the Tigers' innings was held together by a sensible half-century from captain Mahmudullah, after once again the opening pair failed to deliver a decent start.
In reply, Australia made a good start despite losing their first wicket early on, with Nasum Ahmed striking in his first over once again (he did it thrice in the series) to remove opposing captain Matthew Wade.
That brought in Mitch Marsh, the visitors' only in form batsman, and he and McDermott proceeded to steady the ship with a second wicket-stand of 63 runs. When Shoriful dropped the opener, it looked like it wasn't going to be the Tigers' day, and we would have to wait at least another day to savour a series victory.
But in the very next over, Shakib Al Hasan, the big match player, gave Bangladesh a whiff, sending McDermott back to the pavilion bowled for 35, in the 14th over of the innings, at the end of which Australia needed 54 off 6 overs. Shoriful made up for his earlier error by getting rid of Henriques in the very next over, and the Tigers were well and truly in business at that point.
It was good to see Shakib, Bangladesh's GOAT, back to his enthusiastic best. He was really up for this series- as they say, when you're cut from a certain cloth, you want to do your best against the strongest opponents.
A 4-wicket haul in the fifth game - in which he became the very first cricketer from any country to do the double of 100 wickets and 1000 runs in T20Is, a simply outstanding feather in his cap - helped Shakib take the man of the series award, although he graciously acknowledged the brilliance of Mustafiz throughout the series - he was nigh unplayable, and became quite the talk of the cricketing fraternity.
He again gave away just 9 runs in a 4-over spell in the fourth game, almost helping the Tigers defend a measly 104. But it was too little to play with, and the Australians crossed the line for their lone win in the series. Prior to coming here, they had a 4-0 record against Bangladesh in the format.
Smelling their opportunity, the Tigers never lost track again.
When Australia needed 34 off 3 overs, Shoriful Islam removed Mitchell Marsh for 51. A superb slow-delivery did the trick for the tall left-arm pacer. Marsh lifted to the long-on area, and Mohammad Naim came in to take an easy catch. Marsh's dismissal came as a big blow for Australia.
Eventually, Australia ended up on 117 for four wickets in 20 overs.
Apart from Mustafiz, Shoriful took 2/29 off his four overs, while Nasum Ahmed took 1/19 and Shakib 1/22 off their full complement of overs.
Before this series, Bangladesh had never won a T20I match against the Aussies, never won a series, nor even two games in any one format of the game. But here for an entire week and over five games, the Tigers bossed it - there is no other way of putting it.
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