Afif Hossain and Mehidy Hasan Miraz played the innings of their life as Bangladesh recovered from a precarious 45-6 to script a stunning four-wicket victory over Afghanistan in the first of three- match one-day international series at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium here yesterday.
Both of them hit their career-best knock in the process to frustrate Afghanistan. Afif hit an unbeaten 93 off 115, clobbering 11 fours and one six and Miraz was not out on 81 after hitting nine fours in his 120-ball knock.
They combined for a 174-run partnership, which was Bangladesh’s best for the seventh and second best in ODI cricket history, behind 177 by England’s Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid against New Zealand in 2015.
Their wavering resolve in the partnership helped Bangladesh race to the victory with seven balls to spare with 219-6 after Afghanistan were bowled out for 215 in 49.1 overs.
Afghanistan’s spin trio-Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi, described as world’s best by Tamim Iqbal, could take only two wickets, with Afif and Miraz keeping them at bay.
Playing his only second ODI, pacer Fazalhaq Farooqi left Bangladesh 18-4 as Afghanistan appeared to have closed the game.
Farooqi struck twice in his only second over, dismissing Liton Das and captain Tamim Iqbal and on both occasions, he reviewed successfully to overturn umpire’s decision.
In his third over, he again gave Bangladesh a double blow, this time with the wicket of Mushfiqur Rahim, who reviewed in vain and uprooting the stump of Yasir Ali, who got duck on his debut.
Mujeeb took the wicket of Shakib (10) who was the only one amongst top six of Bangladesh to reach double digit figure.
Rashid Khan claimed the wicket of Mahmudullah then with a half tracker, edging Afghanistan closer to its seventh straight ODI victory.
But Afif and Miraz rose on the occasion when it mattered most. Their strategy to play with caution and aggression served them well and frustrated Afghanistan to great degree.
The dew at the evening largely kept Afghan’s spin trio ineffective as Afif and Miraz expertly took the full advantage of it.
Afif cut Rashid for a single to reach his fifty off 64 balls with a single and kept Bangladesh’s nose ahead. Miraz meanwhile pulled pacer Yamin Ahmadzai for boundary through square leg to bring up his second fifty off 79 balls.
Farooqi who finished with 4-54 came back to his second spell with an aim to give the breakthrough but he was also denied as Afif and Miraz finished the game in style with the former pulling Gulbadin Naib for a boundary though mid-wicket.
Nazibullah Zadran earlier struck a well-composed 67 after Afghanistan opted to bat first.
Rahman Shah made 34 and skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi scored 28 to complement Nazibullah’s knock.
Afghanistan however lost opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz cheaply after they opted to bat first but Rahmat Shah and Ibrahim Zadran dealt with a disciplined Bangladeshi attack with utmost confidence.
Left arm pacer Shoriful Islam had Ibrahim caught by Yasir Ali at the slip for 19, ending the 45-run partnership.
Shahidi joined Rahmat and appeared to steady the innings but Taskin Ahmed resisted, taking the wicket of Rahmat, who paid the price of an expensive drive.
Mahmudullah Riyad then got rid of Shahidi who struck three fours and one six for his 28.
At this phase, Mehidy Hasan Miraz bowled 10 overs in a row in a measly bowling effort, curbing the flamboyance of the Afghanistan batters.
Afghanistan got a hope to post a big total when Najibullah and Mohammad Nabi got going well, handling the pumped-up Bangladeshi bowlers superbly.
They shared a 63 runs partnership off just 63 balls for the fifth wicket before Taskin broke it with the wicket of Nabi who made 20.
Najibullah however brought his 13th ODI fifty his off 70 balls, pushing a delivery of Shakib towards square for a single.
He guided the lower order astutely to help the side propel past 200 and it appeared Afghanistan would go past 200 runs with ease.
But Shakib gave them a setback with a double strike, taking the wickets of Gulbadin Naib (17) and Rashid Khan for duck.
Shoriful however got the prized scalp of Najibullah to end Afghanistan’s hope of a big total before Mustafizur Rahman cleaned up the tail to finish with 3-35.
Taskin, Shakib and Shoriful took two wickets apiece. Miraz though didn’t take any wicket, he conceded just 28 runs in his 10 overs to make the other bowler’s task easier.