Having shown strong performances in the first two ODIs, Afghanistan failed to absorb the pressure of a series-defining third match, with poor fielding and lack of partnerships in a steep chase
Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai acknowledged that his side failed to match Bangladesh's experience during the 141-run defeat in the series-deciding third ODI in Mirpur on Saturday.
"Bangladesh is a Full Member team and has a lot of experience," Stanikzai said. "Our team played very well and gave them a tough time in the first two matches. They had experience and we had inexperience. We have learnt lot of things from these matches."
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza, who had stated after the second match that Bangladesh were lucky to be in contention in the series, said his team had summed up the opposition well in the decider. In the first match, Afghanistan had run Bangladesh close, losing by seven runs, before beating the hosts in a tense chase in the second game.
"The more matches you play, the better you can assess the situation. Afghanistan played better than us in the first two games and we played better than them in this game," he said.
The 2-1 win over Afghanistan was Bangladesh's sixth consecutive bilateral ODI series victory at home, equalling India's record for the longest consecutive bilateral ODI series streak at home (excluding their 2011 World Cup win), spanning from 2009 to 2011. Among teams from the subcontinent, only Pakistan (7) have won more.
Had the crunch match against Afghanistan gone the other way, it would have put Bangladesh under pressure for the upcoming ODI series against England.
Instead Tamim Iqbal, who struck a run-a-ball 118, found clarity when Stanikzai dropped him on 1 in the third over, the first of numerous fielding lapses from Afghanistan. Tamim attacked the bowlers, starting with Mirwais Ashraf who had bothered him in the first two games. By the time he was dismissed, he had brought up his seventh ton and achieved the record for the most ODI centuries by a Bangladesh batsman.
Tamim knew that Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan were the most threatening bowlers, so he went after Samiullah Shenwari and Rahmat Shah. He was severe on anything loose, and later said that the reprieve sharpened his focus.
"I never thought that he [Stanikzai] would drop that catch," he said. "I was trying to tell myself understand that I will do well in this innings. I knew that I was on 1 and that I had to work harder and longer to get a big score. I was trying to start afresh and just play cricketing shots."
When they came out to bat, Afghanistan did not break the chase down into partnerships, which resulted in a collapse that left them at 89 for 7 in the 26th over.
Mohammad Shahzad, one of the side's most attacking batsman, was not given any width to use his arms. Instead, Mashrafe's disciplined line kept making him play in the first over before the Bangladesh captain got one to come back sharply at the start of the third over. Mashrafe, having injured his ankle after a fall, bowled off a short run-up later on, and ensured Afghanistan played a lot of spin before they could settle at the crease. Nawroz Mangal and Rahmat scored 33 and 36 respectively but failed to carry on. Eventually, Afghanistan's middle order fell to shots they probably would not have played if the target was lower or they were batting first.
Afghanistan will, in the course of time, learn that batting normally can also bring success in a high-pressure match like the series decider. They will also have to learn how to recover quickly from mistakes like Stanikzai's that led to the century stand. The split-second indecisions can go away through clarity and experience. Just ask Tamim, who finished with a seventh ODI hundred, the Player-of-the-Match and Player-of-the-Series awards.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
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