Can Bangladesh find their giant-felling ways?

Bangladesh's discipline with the ball helped them keep Pakistan to a below-par total in the first T20I. © PCB

When Sidra Nawaz walked out to bat in the first T20I against Bangladesh at the Gadaffi Stadium in Lahore on Saturday (October 26), Pakistan didn’t look like they would get anywhere beyond a total of 115. However, the diminutive wicket-keeper-batter, moved around the crease, and picked her spots (and shots) to perfection, racing to an unbeaten 16 off just five deliveries, including four boundaries. Her cameo meant the hosts managed a total of 126 for 7 in their 20 overs.

It was a knock that underlined Pakistan’s change of approach with the bat in recent times— their willingness to take the attack to the opposition, take risks and try unconventional (shot) options. Their entire batting innings showed— in spurts— just that. When Bismah Maroof and Umaima Sohail kept the scoreboard moving in the middle overs, milking the spinners, using the sweep and cut to put them off their length, that aggressive approach was evident. When Iram Javed played the lofted drive in search of the boundary, that hunger was clear. And when Diana Baig charged at the bowlers from the very start, her decisive footwork was laden with positive ‘intent’.

Pakistan’s allround improvement over the last couple of years is most evident in their batting. Since last October Pakistan have hit a total of 241 boundaries —215 fours and 26 sixes— in 19 T20Is. In seven of these games, they have hit more boundaries than the opposition, tying the count on two occasions— once each against India and West Indies. Twice during this period, they have crossed the 150-run mark, reaching a high of 172 against South Africa in Benoni. Of the eight matches they have won in this period, four have come while chasing.

 

Pakistan's batters showed a willingness to take the attack to the opposition. © PCB

Pakistan’s batters showed a willingness to take the attack to the opposition. © PCB

 

Bangladesh on the other hand, have had a middling 12 months. Following the Asia Cup triumph and Women’s World T20 Qualifier win in 2018, Salma Khatun’s team have struggled to put together complete performances in the shortest format. They have largely struggled with the bat, failing to score quickly, or even build partnerships. In contrast to Pakistan, the visitors have hit only a total of 105 boundaries since October 2018 in 16 T20Is. This includes 93 boundaries and 12 sixes. Only five times have they scored more than 100 runs in an innings— twice these have been totals over 120.

Despite these poor numbers, Bangladesh forced Pakistan to scrap for a win in the opening game on Saturday. Rumana Ahmed’s return meant the batting line-up looked more solid and the bowling had more variety. More importantly, it was the calmness she brought to the run-chase that allowed Bangladesh to even challenge the hosts from the position they were in at 47 for 4 in 12 overs. Her maiden T20I half century, however— a knock that included two sixes— wasn’t enough to get the visitors over the line.

Another senior player who stepped up for Bangladesh was Jahanara Alam. The fast bowler charged in with purpose and bowled with great discipline. She hit the deck hard, didn’t allow the batters to loft over the field in the initial stages, and made sure to keep the ball full and straight at the death. In the end, Alam was rewarded with four wickets for only 17 runs, an effort that helped keep Pakistan to a below par total.

As always, in a crunch, it was Pakistan’s bowlers who saw them through, but the batters did show some promise. Going in to match number two, there is no doubt that both sides will want to put on an improved performance, with the bat, more so than with the ball.

While Pakistan’s form and attacking approach since last year makes them favourites in this series, if anything Bangladesh have proved that they have it in them to fight till the very end.

The second T20I at the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore on Monday (October 28) will undoubtedly be a mouth watering encounter. Pakistan 2.0 up against an unpredictable Bangladesh. Will the hosts continue their exciting run, or will Bangladesh find their giant-killing form again?

Squads:

Pakistan: Bismah Maroof (c), Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Zafar, Diana Baig, Iram Javed, Javeria Khan, Kainat Imtiaz, Nahida Khan, Omaima Sohail, Saba Nazir, Sadia Iqbal, Sana Mir, Sidra Amin, Sidra Nawaz

Bangladesh: Salma Khatun (c), Ayesha Rahman, Ekka Mollik, Fargana Hoque, Jahanara Alam, Khadija Tul Kubra, Lata Mondal, Nigar Sultana, Panna Ghosh, Rumana Ahmed, Sanjida Islam, Shamima Sultana, Shanjida Akther Maghla, Sharmin Akhter, Sharmin Sultana