Afif Hossain’s career-best T20I knock and a timely 35 off 25 balls from skipper Nurul Hasan helped Bangladesh post 158-5 against the UAE after another top-order collapse in the first Twenty20 international of the two-match series at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday.
Afif made an unbeaten 77 off 55 balls with the help of seven fours and three sixes in an innings that made up for the lacklustre batting from majority of the batters after they were asked to bat first.
Afif and Nurul’s unbroken sixth wicket stand of 81 off 54 balls gave the bowlers a total they will back themselves to defend against the UAE.
For the hosts, leg-spinner Karthik Meiyappan claimed 2-33 in his four overs.
The management kept its faith on the unconventional opening pair of Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Sabbir Rahman.
However, the ploy did not pay off as Sabbir lost his wicket in just the second over for a duck and the opening stand ended on just 11. The right-hander tried to hit a big shot against Sabir Ali backfired and was caught by Basil Hameed.
Liton Das, who alongside Yasir Ali and Nurul Hasan returned to the team in this match after their respective injuries, looked in good touch, hitting three boundaries.
But Liton (13 off eight balls) lost his wicket while attempting to hit the third boundary in an over against Aayan Afzal Khan, top-edging the ball and giving an easy catch to Junaid Siddique instead.
Bangladesh’s powerplay woes did not end there as Miraz, after making 12 off 13 balls, gave a return catch to Zawar Farid as the team slumped to 35-3 after 4.4 overs.
Yasir (four off seven balls) completely misread a googly from leg-spinner Karthik Meiyappan and lost his poles.
Contrary to the other Bangladeshi batsmen, Afif, who came to the crease after the second wicket’s fall, looked in command from the beginning.
He formed a 30-run stand for the fifth wicket with Mosaddek Hossain off just 23 balls where the latter contributed just three runs off eight balls.
Mosaddek tried to take on Meiyappan but ended up getting stumped, leaving Bangladesh five wickets down with 77 runs on the board with nine overs to go.
Stand-in skipper Nurul then joined Afif and the duo formed a partnership that gave Bangladesh a lifeline in the contest.
Afif looked like batting on a different wicket, hitting boundaries almost at will and finding gaps to rotate the strike regularly.
The 23-year-old completed his third T20I half-century in the 16th over off 38 deliveries and then put his foot on the accelerator.
Nurul wasn’t at his fluent best, but the wicketkeeper-batter gave him the support Afif required and together they formed the only 50-plus partnership of the innings.
Afif was dropped in the 18th over at the boundary when he was on 64. He made the UAE pay for the mistake, taking 13 runs in the final two overs and Nutul ended the innings with a six.