Bangladesh fast bowler Taskin Ahmed celebrates the dismissal of South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada as Keshav Maharaj, left, looks on during the third ODI at SuperSport Park in Centurion yesterday. Taskin took five wickets for 35 runs in nine overs before Tamim Iqbal hit an unbeaten 82 to help Bangladesh seal their maiden series win in South Africa.
Bangladesh had gone into the tour of South Africa on top of the ICC ODI Super League, but to truly earn the respect that the position merits, they required something special. Having clinched the first ODI with a supreme showing, a clinical performance befitting of the history that was beckoning saw the Tigers seal an emphatic nine-wicket victory in the third game to clinch the three-match series 2-1 against South Africa at Centurion yesterday.
India had been thrashed 3-0 in January by the same hosts despite putting up challenging scores with the bat. Given that context, the Tigers knew their pace attack would hold the key and Taskin Ahmed and Co rose to the occasion. That confidence found by the pacers coursed through the rest of the departments.
Taskin was on fire with the ball and led the siege with a five-wicket haul as the Proteas were bowled out for 154 before openers Tamim Iqbal and Liton Das punctuated the team's winning mentality, not giving an inch during a 127-run stand. The openers were authoritative, Tamim remaining unbeaten on 87 while Liton Das fell softly after a classy 48 before Shakib Al Hasan ensured no further hiccups. Taskin was in imperious mood, becoming the first away bowler in ODIs in the last decade to scalp five wickets in South Africa after Sri Lanka legend Lasith Malinga in 2012.
That in itself gives an idea of the gargantuan nature of the Tigers' performance in this series, but credit should go also go to the skill, guile and importantly the mentality of not giving away things when the chips were down that was portrayed by Tamim's troops and left a lasting mark in a historic series win.
Over the course of the past year-and-a-half, the likes of Taskin and Shoriful Islam started to give the side confidence in the idea that Bangladesh had a pace attack for conditions that did not suit their spinners. By the time preparations for the South Africa series had begun, the pace attack was raring to prove their mettle in alien conditions.
The seven-wicket defeat in the second ODI could have dented confidence. And when South Africa's opening batters were again on the attack after the hosts opted to bat in the third ODI, there was real danger of things slipping away. Going back to basics has often been mistaken for untidy tactical changes, but here the Tigers showed all the nuances a victory of this calibre deserved.
Tamim went to his hero of the first match in Mehedi Hasan Miraz in just the fifth over and he eventually got the better of destroyer-in-chief Quinton de Kock in the seventh over. The complexion of the game began to change thereafter and those were the little details that mattered as the Tigers made a real statement.
Taskin got a bit lucky when Kyle Verreynne dragged one onto his stumps after a very positive start, but it gave him the confidence to begin to hold sway as he came in to bowl in different spells.
Bangladesh made that extra bounce on the pitch materialise and the fielders were on their toes, as has been prevalent this series. Taskin came up with a brilliantly bowled out-swinger that bounced just that bit extra and took Janneman Malan's outside edge through to Mushfiqur Rahim. Shakib made sure opposition skipper Temba Bavuma did not last long and Shoriful then got the better of Rassie van der Dussen, leaving the Proteas slumping at 83 for five.
Taskin pressed home the advantage after coming back into the attack in the 25th over as he picked up Dwaine Pretorius for his third scalp before getting the better of David Miller and Kagiso Rabada in the 29th over to shatter whatever resistance the South African batters had hoped to stage.
All three departments came up trumps throughout the series, which proved to be South Africa's undoing.
A stunning catch from Yasir Ali at a crucial moment of the first ODI, the consistency and skill of Miraz in coming back into the attack effectively after being taken to the cleaners in his first four overs and Shakib's immense knock of 77 in the same game coupled with the Liton-Tamim stand in both the first and third games all come to mind along with Taskin's perseverance in the story of Tigers' epic series win.
Tamim's leadership had also been of high quality and his innings of 87 was the cherry on top of the performances and the way he led his side to conquer a new frontier.