As the game drew anxiously to a close and English wickets kept falling, there must have been numerous instances when Bangladesh believed they were going to win. Dawid Malan, however, was the rightful owner. In a World Cup year, every game is an audition, and Malan aced this one by striking a truly great hundred to lift his team to victory in the opening ODI of this three-game series.
His innings had stretches of 46 balls between boundaries, followed by three sixes as he picked up the pace after the drinks break. It was a patient performance that eventually turned belligerent. The 35-year-cool old’s analysis of the match scenario and capacity to adjust to it, one in which the only constant was the rising amount of weight on his own shoulders, was virtually completely responsible for England having any hope of winning this match as it neared its closing moments.
Nobody else on either team managed to score more than Malan’s final score of 114, and only Will Jacks’ 26 in his ODI debut represented England. Although Bangladesh is an expert on the low, slow Mirpur pitch, they were challenged here.
Even though the host team put on some standout performances, with seamer Taskin Ahmed particularly impressive and persistently posing a threat with the ball, England would have won this game very easily if it weren’t for their own indiscretion. Several batsmen made mistakes, including Jason Roy who foolishly fell in the first over, Jos Buttler who calmly and deliberately guided the ball straight to slip, and Jacks who unsuccessfully tried to clear the fielder at deep square leg. However, the extras count is particularly damning: while Bangladesh’s bowlers only gave up three, England’s bowlers gave up five by the end of the second over and eventually reached 26.
As Taijul Islam outwitted Malan’s defenses and hit his pad in the 15th over, the hosts were left to rue the situation. The boisterous appeal had no effect on the umpire, and the inevitable review indicated that the ball may have clipped the leg stump, but not with enough certainty to change the on-field ruling. He was on 32 at the time and didn’t turn around again.
Jofra Archer, who opened the day with a wide, a no-ball, and a full toss, epitomized England’s subsequent improvement – after giving up 12 from his first over, he only gave up another 25 from his following nine overs. Bangladesh’s scoreboard went slowly even with the advantage of a lightning outfield, the kind of surface that forces fielders to abandon their attempts to catch balls as they slip away toward the boundary padding.
When Bangladesh last played here, against India in December of last year, the same players scored 7, 8, and 12 runs, respectively. Najmul Hossain Shanto was their standout batsman with 58 runs, but too many in the top order underperformed. He entered the game with an ODI average of 14 and had only managed to score in one of his previous three innings. But, the lower level was powerless to intervene that particular time. Instead, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, and Litton Das each scored 16 runs.
England had a chance to win provided they could avoid taking excessive risks and penalize the poor deliveries because the home team’s score of 209 felt a little low. Ultimately, it was a path that only one man chose to take, and that was enough.