Friday, February 22, 2019
Updated: Friday, March 12, 2004
We've won. Consistency.

Masum Billah
What would you rather have? A win by a narrow margin or a hard fought loss? It's easy to answer that question. We fought tooth and nail. We fought 'til the very end, then came up short. Very much the way Zimbabwe did just the other day. The 2 matches were very similar in their range of runs scored and overs played. The end result of the second match is the exact opposite of the first. Why is it? Let's take a look, keeping in mind the overwhelming "Heath factor":

Heath won the toss again. This time he decided to bat first. We are a team of much less experience than Zimbabwe. Heath probably tried to cash in on it. He expected us to crumble on a run chase. We did well batting second, even with the flaws, we did not have one of our trademark collapses of the past.

Heath's decision almost backfired on him. Zimbabwe was at 79 for 5, at the end of the 21st over, hanging for dear life. Heath Streak staged the comeback with Sean Ervine. They did manage to put up a fighting total. However, our bowlers didn't completely lose their ways. The last 2 overs went for 25, but that should be expected. We also scored 25 in 2 overs towards the end of our innings. The fact is we restricted Zimbabwe to 242, which is an attainable target. This was a major shift for us compared to past comeback by our opponents where our bowling and fielding grew weary and wayward as time passed.

Now, the extra runs, no less than 29 of them. Zimbabwe was almost equally generous in returning the favor when it was their turn. The point to note here, 26 of ours were given out in the first twenty over; may be a price for necessary pace aggression. But, look how handsomely it paid off. For the first time, we had them on the back foot from the get go. With that observation, I no longer want to complaint about those extras in this match.

We fielded reasonably well and so did the opponents. Our wicketkeeper, Pilot, played "Mr. Reliable" again. As a matter of fact, we may be taking him for granted by now. 2 caught-behinds, 1 stumping, and a wonderful, late 41 run innings. If the others performed as steady as he has been, we would have been in the world top 5 by now. A truly seasoned veteran at his young age, he is an example and an inspiration for the rest.

Now, about our favorite punching bag, Khaled Mahmud: Just after the last game, we were hailing him as a hero of sort. We have lost another match where he was mediocre. Another fall from grace for Mahmud. The reality is, he is in the team. He played vital roles in our rare wins and close calls. It seems our expectations of him is disproportionately higher than for the other members of the team. The press and the fans are less forgiving to his failures. Why is it? That's the subject of another discussion. As the facts stand for this game, he failed to give us some essential runs at a crucial hour, which could have altered the end result. His overall performance, however, is no worse, if not better.

So, we are down to the usual suspect: Batting. An uninspiring opening partnership, non-performing Alok, ODI mediocre Hannan, disappointing Mahmud, and yes, failure of the skipper, Habibul Bashar. He is our best batsman on record. We must remind ourselves that Bashar only has one major area of performance. He must let his willow do the talking. He has to do better in this category. We were ready to forgive his past sins in the series after the last innings. He is the captain. When he fails, he fails the team in more than one way. Today, the Zimbabweans exacted a victory and a revenge on us on the wings of their angel, Heath streak. Our Bashar was unable to inspire his teammates with any exemplary performance.

Heath will take the third match more seriously after today. We showed him two good fights back-to-back. Complacency did not get in our way this time. This result, even in defeat, actually pushes the credibility factor of our win of the last match. It is actually harder to perform reasonably when things are not going quite your way. We did that today. The Bangladesh team showed another clear sign of maturity in this match. We are showing an even par of strength against a much more experienced opponent. This is another big step towards a reputation makeover. We are creating consistency, which is the essence of this process.