More specialist bowlers than batters in the playing XI, and a better fielding display than England could manage, gave Bangladesh the decisive edge in the 3-0 T20I series win, according to their victorious captain, Shakib Al Hasan. The home side completed their whitewash with a 16-run victory in the third game, after engineering a mid-innings batting collapse and then squeezing England’s runs in the final five overs.
Similar bowling displays had been instrumental to Bangladesh’s wins in the first two T20Is too. Hasan Mahmud bowled two great overs in the end of England’s innings in the first game in Chattogram, which enabled Bangladesh to chase a moderate 157. In the second game, England collapsed twice in the middle overs to be outplayed in the four-wicket defeat.
Shakib said that, instead of playing eight batters, they chose to have a cushion of bowling options. In the third game, that bowling depth came in handy in the latter part of the innings when both Jos Buttler and Dawid Malan fell in the 14th over; Mustafizur Rahman removed Malan while Buttler was run out next ball. Mehidy’s direct hit highlighted the fielding effort which saw marked improvement in their ground fielding and catching.
“Our bowling unit was quite good in this series,” Shakib said. “We never had the luxury of playing with six proper bowlers as we often played with eight batters. We were always a bowler short. In T20s, you need that [bowling] cushion. Bowlers win you T20 matches, so having that extra bowler was helpful. We have a few more areas for tuning, thinking ahead to the next World Cup, but we have made a good start. I think the turning point of the match was that over. They lost both their set batters in successive balls. It proved to be decisive.
“Everyone noticed our fielding in these three matches. We out-fielded England, who are themselves a good fielding side. It is a big tick mark. Our biggest improvement is in our fielding, when I consider every aspect. We should always field well, but we have targeted to become the best fielding side in Asia. After this performance, I don’t think we are too far behind.”
Shakib praised the way Litton Das came back into form, as the opener made a career-best 73 in quick time. He added 84 runs for the second wicket stand with the player of the series, Najmul Hossain Shanto, with the pair’s running between the wickets particularly impressing the captain.
“We didn’t know how much runs were enough on this pitch. So we were very open-minded,” Shakib said. “We first thought 140 was a good score. Then we got to a stage when we thought 170-180 would be our total. We didn’t get many runs in the last five overs, but we batted well in the powerplay and middle-overs.
“They have seven or eight proper bowlers so we had to struggle at least once in the innings,” he added. “The way Rony and Litton started, and then Shanto and Litton build the innings, especially their running between the wickets, it was outstanding. The way they turned ones into twos and twos into threes, it put England under pressure.”
Bangladesh’s sudden upswing in the T20I format had a lot to do with its proximity to the BPL, and the selectors’ willingness to pick the best performers from a tournament that ended only three weeks before the series. “Everyone in this team performed in this year’s BPL,” Shakib said. “It wasn’t too long ago before the England tour. The top five-six batters in this series were also the top run-getters in BPL. It is the same for the highest wicket-takers. The confidence did carry over, so I think that really helped us.”
Shakib also told the long-term story of how this team gained confidence in T20Is. He believes it goes back to the Asia Cup last year when he took over the captaincy, but the real belief that they can win against major teams came in the T20 World Cup when Bangladesh won two matches for the first time in their history.
“I have been leading the team since the Asia Cup last year,” he said. “We didn’t win a match there, but I thought we played good cricket. We were unfortunate not to reach the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup. We were one win away from that achievement. We had a lot of doubt before the tournament, but the belief that we can compete with bigger teams started from the World Cup.”
England’s lack of batting depth also played a hand in their success as Bangladesh knew that three or four wickets would bring them to the lower-order. “We had more confidence before this series, since we were playing at home,” Shakib added. “We capitalised on England being short of batters. It was our advantage that they didn’t have many batters after losing three or four wickets.”
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Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84