By Yash Khandor
Ranked at number 10 in the ICC ratings, Bangladesh outplayed the defending T20 World Champions West Indies and clinched the T20 series 2-1 – their first overseas win in a bilateral series since July 2012. Clinically aggressive with the bat and guilefully effective with the ball, Bangladesh did not allow the Windies to get off to any real momentum in both the games played here at the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, USA.
Winning the toss, Shakib decided to bat first; a decision that West Indies would have been happy with considering they prefer to chase as a team filled with power-hitters. But Bangladesh began the carnage began right from the first ball when Liton Das hit Ashley Nurse’s full-toss to the boundary. In Nurse’s next over, Liton further accelerated and pounded him for two sixes and one four off consecutive deliveries. Liton with Tamim brought up 50 for Bangladesh off just 22 balls, the fastest in Bangladesh’s history, and the fervent fans had a gala time. There were drums, Tiger teddies and Bangladeshi flags all over the stands. Some of the fans, flying in from all over the US, stayed back despite their return flights scheduled – since Bangladesh won the 2nd T20 and now gave them hopes for a series win.
Carlos Braithwaite got Tamim and Soumya Sarkar secured his 11th consecutive low score with Bangladesh ending the Powerplay at 71 for the loss of 2 wickets – West Indies probably missing the trick once again and not starting with Carlos Braithwaite in place of Ashley Nurse. Liton continued to bat calmly amidst all this and reached his first limited overs fifty off just 24 balls. Mushfiqur Rahim failed once more and was accompanied by Liton soon in the dugout as West Indies seemed to get the control back. Shakib did not look fluent and scrambled to a weak 24. However, it was Mahmudullah this time who scored an unbeaten 32 off 20 balls to propel Bangladesh total to 184 for the loss of 5 wickets.
West Indies replaced out-of-form Evin Lewis with the in-form Chadwick Walton to open the innings with Andre Fletcher. Walton struck a boundary each in the first 3 overs and West Indies had a stable start with 22 off the first 3 overs without the loss of any wicket. But the going got tough as West Indies lost 3 wickets in the fourth, fifth and sixth overs. Rovman Powell and Denesh Ramdin put up a 45-run stand, but not at the pace West Indies would have liked. Ramdin was out to Rubel in the 12th over and in came Andre Russel.
With 108 needed of 51 balls, Russel was the only hope for the West Indies and the key nemesis in the heads of the Bangladeshi players. He was on the go as his first five scoring shots were four sixes and one four. Three sixes over mid-wicket and one huge 111 meters six over long-on. That fourth six was long enough to elevate the Caribbean hope and to send shivers down the Bangla spine. He wanted some support from the other end but skipper Carlos failed to provide that as he holed out in the deep leaving Russel with a little too much to do. Russel refused Ashley Nurse a single off the last ball to retain the strike, pretty understandable with the required run-rate scarily high. However, the move did not work as Mustafizur got his third wicket with Russell caught on the long-off boundary. Down went the heads of the West Indian fans and down came the rain. The second rain-break and close to 25 minutes lost – the officials decided to call off the game and West Indies fell short by 19 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis scale.
The series and the tour were over, but the party had just started as the Bangladeshi fans went berserk celebrating in the stands and the team reciprocated by giving them a lap of honor. In the post-match presentation where he was crowned the Man-of-the-Series, Shakib said, “Thanks to them (the fans) because we never felt like we were away from home. Obviously, it was a long series and in the end the support we got, I think they played as 12th man.”
People are pointing out that the stands were filled with Bangladeshi supporters but the reality is, the West Indies are not a crowd draw even in the West Indies where stands are usually empty.
The T20I series win doubled up the Bangladeshi limited-overs coup, having won the preceding ODI series 2-1 as well. The way West Indies dominated in the two Test matches to start the tour in a 2-0 sweep, Bangladesh would be more than satisfied and extremely proud of the way the squad has amalgamated to end the tour. The hope grows stronger to see more of these spirited and successful performances away from home by the talented Bangla Tigers!