Aspectacular 144 from Imrul Kayes, backed up by a maiden international half-century from Mohammad Saifuddin, helped Bangladesh recover from 139/6 to post a competitive total before their bowlers combined to restrict Zimbabwe.
Considering the relative ICC MRF Tyres ODI rankings of these teams – Bangladesh start the series in seventh, four places ahead of Zimbabwe in 11th, one might expect a mis-match, especially given how strong Bangladesh are at home.
The sixth over of the innings however put any preconceptions right, as Tendai Chatara dismissed first Liton Das and then Fazle Mahmud with the first and last balls of the over to let Bangladesh know they were in a proper scrap.
Das came into the game in form, having scored a century in his previous ODI innings in the Asia Cup final against India, considered a breakthrough knock by many pundits. This time he made just four as he was tied down effectively, and could only pick out mid-off as he tried to break the shackles. Mahmud’s debut then got off to the worst possible start as he nicked a rising ball to the keeper.
All Kayes could do was watch the carnage unfold from the other end, and it is to his credit that he didn’t panic. He and Mushfiqur Rahim rebuilt, adding 49 for the third wicket, before the wicket-keeper fell to Brandon Mavuta. In some ways it was the classic leg-spinner’s dismissal – a long-hop which the batsman tries to hit too hard and only succeeds in offering a catch. The twist in this case was that instead of holing out, Mushfiqur only managed to glove down the leg-side where Brendan Taylor took an excellent catch, with the decision overturned on review.
Once again Bangladesh had to rebuild, with Kayes this time finding a willing ally in Mohammad Mithun. It was the kind of wicket on which strike rotation was difficult, with placing the ball in gaps a struggle, and both showed an ability to wait for and then punish the bad ball. There were five sixes in their 71-run stand, with each striking consecutive maximums, but having batted Bangladesh into a position of strength, a triple-strike from Kyle Jarvis set them back once more.
Mithun was the first to go, some extra bounce forcing him to edge to the keeper, before Mahmudullah also nicked off in the same over. Taylor had his fifth catch in Taylor’s next over as Mehidy Hasan Miraz edged a cut behind, and Bangladesh had lost 3/2. Consolidation was required, with Saifuddin not a renowned batsman, and he and Kayes added just 42 runs in the next 10 overs.
Kayes reached his century in the 43rd over, a tuck into the leg-side prompting a bat cradle celebration, and took the milestone as his cue to launch, smashing 44 off 22 balls after reaching his century before holing out to cover, the seventh wicket partnership totalling 127. Between overs 46-48 Bangladesh scored 48 runs, and in that stretch the game ran away from Zimbabwe.
For the most part Kayes hit straight, though little else was conventional, with flat-bats and cleared front legs his preferred method. Saifuddin meanwhile played the foil, tucking singles to get Kayes back on strike.
Both fell within four balls of each other to give Jarvis a fourth and Chatara a third, but the damage had been done, and Bangladesh went into the break with the ascendancy.
Zimbabwe made a decent fist of the reply, but regular Bangladesh strikes meant the home side were always ahead of the game. Cephas Zhuwao kicked off the chase in style by racing to 35 off 24 balls before an in-ducking delivery from Mustafizur Rahman found its target. Taylor was also bowled, by a beauty from Nazmul Islam which drifted in and gripped past his forward prod to strike the off stump. In fact, Hamilton Masakadza was the only member of the top five not to be bowled. He instead was run out going for an impossible second.
Nazmul bowled Sikandar Raza in similar fashion to Taylor, while Craig Ervine fell to the off-spin of Mehidy, but again beaten by the ball turning away into off stump.
From 100/5 Zimbabwe enjoyed a partial recovery thanks to PJ Moor and Sean Williams, but with the rate increasing Moor opted to sweep when it wasn’t on and was struck in front. Donald Tiripano was then run out, sent back by Williams but having come too far down. Mavuta struck some eye-catching strokes in his 16-ball 20, but when he chipped the last ball of the 40th over back to Mehidy, Zimbabwe were in danger of not playing out their overs.
Jarvis and Williams then added 67 for the ninth wicket, a brave effort even if it did little more than save face. Jarvis fell for 37, slogging and missing, fooled by Mahmudullah bowling from way behind the crease, and though Williams brought up his half-century, Zimbabwe still finished 28 runs shy of Bangladesh’s total.