Mushfiqur Rahim’s Unique Last-Over Blues

Mohamed Isam, in ESPNcricinfo, July 27 July 2018, where the title reads “

Georgetown. Dehradun. Bengaluru. Harare. These four cities, connected by a line more than 18,000km long, have one thing in common: tense chases in which Mushfiqur Rahim has been caught on the leg-side boundary in the last over.

It has now happened five times in the last seven years, and Bangladesh have lost on each occasion, heartbreakingly, from positions of strength. Georgetown was the latest entrant on this list. This time, Mushfiqur was out hitting a Jason Holder full-toss down deep midwicket’s throat, leaving the side with eight needed off the last five balls. He had batted brilliantly up to that point to score 68 off 66 balls.

Just over a month ago, in the third T20I against Afghanistan, he had hit another full-toss straight to deep midwicket, this time off Rashid Khan’s bowling. He had done all the hard work then too, hitting five successive fours in the penultimate over to bring the equation down to nine off six balls. Bangladesh lost that match by one run.

Bengaluru, 2016, was the most high-profile Mushfiqur meltdown in the last over. His premature celebration after hitting successive fours to bring the equation down to two runs off four balls, his dismissal the next ball – caught at deep midwicket – and Bangladesh’s subsequent failure to win a World T20 game that had seemed all but wrapped up, have become the stuff of a million memes. Every tight chase Bangladesh have been involved in since then has been measured against this game, the headlines announcing either that they’re still haunted by the ghosts of Bengaluru, or that they’ve exorcised them.

Now that Mushfiqur has succumbed the same way again, at the same stage of two tight chases in the space of seven weeks, it has become necessary to ask why he gets out like this. The trend goes back to 2011 and 2013, when he was also dismissed in the last over of chases, both times in Harare, caught at long-on and deep square leg.

Does Mushfiqur have a deep-rooted tendency to try and finish with a flourish, and does that option invariably involve trying to hit the ball over the leg-side boundary, his favourite six-hitting zone?

Months after the Bengaluru game, the then Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha told The Cricket Monthly that he would continue to bank on Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah, the two chief protagonists of that final-over brainfade, in similar scenarios. “If the situation arrives again, those are the two batsmen I want,” he had said.

While the so-near-yet-so-far moments tend to stick longer in the memory, Mushfiqur has also been instrumental in numerous Bangladesh wins, home and away, and after the Bengaluru defeat was unbeaten on three big occasions:

In Colombo last year, he held his nerve for more than an hour to complete Bangladesh’s maiden Test win over Sri Lanka. Against New Zealand in Dublin, Mushfiqur’s calm, unbeaten 45 steered Bangladesh home with 10 balls to spare. Against Sri Lanka in the Nidahas Trophy earlier this year, it was Mushfiqur’s unbeaten 35-ball 72 that powered them home in 19.4 overs.

There have been three previous instances when Mushfiqur played the pivotal match-winning knock in Bangladesh’s chases that went into the last two overs. His level-headed presence for over 90 minutes guided Bangladesh to a gritty Test win over Zimbabwe in 2014, before which he spoiled Sachin Tendulkar’s party during the 2012 Asia Cup. In his first match as Bangladesh captain, against West Indies in 2011, he hit the winning runs: a six over midwicket.

But it now seems like an ill-fated area for Mushfiqur.

At the end of the game in Georgetown, Mashrafe Mortaza said the three late dismissals – Mushfiqur’s and those of Mahmudullah and Sabbir Rahman – ultimately hurt Bangladesh.

“We were in the match till the last ball,” Mashrafe said. “It is hard to say which way these matches usually go. But definitely if [Mahmudullah] Riyad had avoided that mix-up (which led to his run-out in the 46th over), the chase would have been easier. If Sabbir or Mushfiqur didn’t get out at that stage, we would have won the game.”

Mashrafe insisted that Bangladesh shouldn’t have left the chase as late as the last over. “Of course it is disappointing to lose these matches. We needed 14 off the last 13 balls with six wickets in hand, so we were not supposed to lose this match,” he said. “It hasn’t just happened today. We have seen it recently as well. I think we are failing to learn from mistakes. We should have finished the game with more ease, which we failed to do.

It is hard to describe, whether it is just mental or technical too. It wasn’t 20 needed off 12. We needed 14 off 13 balls. So you can’t say it was technical or mental. Maybe we could have eased our nerves, by just trying to pick singles.”

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Filed under Bangladesh cricket, close finsihes, cricket and life, Hathurusingha, performance, unusual statistics, West Indian Cricket

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