Afif Hossain’s 77* saves Bangladesh’s blushes

Bangladesh 158 for 5 (Afif 77*, Nurul 35*, Meiyappan 2-33) beat United Arab Emirates 151 (Suri 39, Afzal 25, Miraz 3-17, Shoriful 3-21) by seven runs

Afif Hossain and Mehidy Hasan Miraz led Bangladesh out of trouble each time as they beat UAE by seven runs in the first T20I in Dubai. In front of a sparse crowd, mostly consisting of expatriate Bangladeshis, the visitors got their first T20I win in the country.

After being sent in, Bangladesh recovered from 47 for 4, then withstood Chirag Suri’s fiery start with the bat, before 16-year-old debutant Aayan Khan gave them a final scare in the last three overs of the 159-run chase.

Afif top-scored with an unbeaten 77, while Miraz took three wickets and two excellent catches, one off his own bowling, before Shoriful Islam’s two wickets in the last over sealed the game for Bangladesh.

Opening woes continue for Bangladesh
Sabbir Rahman and Miraz walked out to open the innings for Bangladesh and all the speculation about the opening pair was put to rest since their curtailed training camp in Dhaka a couple of weeks ago.

However, their stand lasted just nine balls as Sabbir bowled Sabir Ali to Basil Hameed at deep square leg. Miraz didn’t look too comfortable either as he fell for 12 off 14 balls with two fours, making one back to fast bowler Zawar Farid in the fifth over.

In between, the returning Litton Das also fell for 13, though he started with a lot of intent and hit three boundaries.

Meiyappan’s double blow
Bangladesh faced further trouble when leg-spinner Karthik Meiyappan removed Yasir Ali with his first ball. The delivery held its line, sending the visitors into a tail-spin of 47 for 4 in the eighth over. Meiyappan has been a revelation since his debut last year as he has now taken 16 wickets in ten T20Is. When he coaxed Mosaddek Hossain out of the crease and got him to stop for three, it looked like UAE were on the move.

Afif to the rescue, again
However, Afif stood firm amid a flurry of wickets. He has already been Bangladesh’s leading run scorer in T20Is this year, so some consistency was expected from him. He dominated the stand with 30 runs for the fifth wicket with Mosaddek before adding 81 in an unbroken stand with captain Nurul Hasan.

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Luck was also on Afif’s side. He was dropped at deep square leg twice, on 2 and 63. But he hit the ball well through the leg side and hit it regularly behind square, which seems to be one of his favorite areas this year. He missed a few scoops and ramps and the straighter bat shots yielded more runs. He finished with three sixes and seven fours – Bangladesh will be happy that they have one batsman showing good form.

Suri lights up UAE’s chase
Suri started with a boundary but Bangladesh had a lucky break in the middle. In the fifth over, a shot from Suri brushed the fingers of bowler Shoriful on his way to the stumps at the non-striking end to find Muhammad Waseem out of his crease. Waseem had hit a four and a six in his run-a-ball 15, but the home side needed a harder push.

Suri then hit the ball brilliantly to Mustafizur Rahman in the last over of the powerplay. He timed the ball behind square in the offside for two fours before adding a third with a twisting pull as Mustafizur came round the wicket. The 14 overs took UAE to 43 for 1 after six overs.

Miraz comes to the party
However, the hunt fell flat when Miraz got going. He had Suri stumped in the eighth over for 39 off 24 balls. In his next over, he had the dangerous Aryan Lakra in the 19th over.

After this it was the turn of field player Miraz. UAE captain CP Rizwan tried to break Mustafizur through point but Miraz dived to his left to complete a superb catch. Shoriful then removed Basil Hameed before Miraz took his second brilliant catch of the game. Off his own bowling, he dived full length, again to his left, to intercept Vriitya Aravind’s leading edge.

Aayan is close
Afif ran out Farid with a direct hit from the deep before Mustafizur bowled Meiyappan in the 17th over. At that time, UAE required 35 from three overs with just two wickets in hand. It looked like the game was almost over before young Aayan hit three fours in the next two overs. He and Junaid Siddique took 14 and 10 from the 18th and 19th overs respectively, which also featured Mosaddek dropping a sitter in the deep. Mohammad Saifuddin dropped an even easier chance at cover but both fielders redeemed themselves by taking a catch each to complete the win.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84


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