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Bangladesh targets perfect Mortaza farewell

Having won the first T20I by six wickets, host determined to wrap up series at Premadasa Stadium

Mashrafe Mortaza has revealed that he never enjoyed Twenty20 cricket because the duration was so short that it never allowed him to get into the groove. That is a big admission from the Bangladesh captain, who was given the responsibility to shape the team and did a wonderful job at that. He will be retiring from the format after the second T20 International against Sri Lanka at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Thursday (April 6).

It has been a memorable tour for Bangladesh. It drew the Test and One-Day International series, and needs to win the final game to share the honours in the T20I series too. Not only will it be a wonderful farewell gift to a great servant of Bangladesh cricket, it will also be a significant moment in the history of the sport in the country. It will be the first time since it became a Test nation in 2000 that Bangladesh will end a full tour to a higher-ranked nation on even ground. The impact of that can only be felt in years to come, and go a long way in boosting coach Chandika Hathurusinghe’s aspirations of making Bangladesh a world leader in cricket by 2019.

Mortaza said he was stepping down in order to give deserving youngsters more chances to prepare themselves for tougher challenges.

“It is always tough to hang up your jersey. But I thought that if I look behind me, someone like (Rubel Hossain) is missing out. He should have been in the first XI, but he is missing out because of me,”

Mortaza said after the six-wicket loss in the first T20I on Tuesday.

“Since he is performing better than me, he should be in the team. I still feel this team is the best place for our youngsters to grow for a bigger stage like Tests and ODIs.

“I never enjoyed the format when T20 started. I played five World Cups but I never enjoyed it, maybe because of my injuries. This format is quick and sharp, so you don’t get enough chances to warm up your body, especially my legs which hurt a lot,” he added. “I still kept going because the cricket board was respecting me as a captain. I was trying really hard to build this team as much as I can. I don’t know how much I did but it was a real pleasure to captain in T20s.”

Mortaza’s leadership vision is exemplary. The team owes a lot to him for the way it has re-branded its style of play in recent times. Apart from the journey to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 quarterfinal, the home series wins over Pakistan, India and South Africa, and the drawn series against Sri Lanka in 50-over cricket, are some of his biggest achievements.

When he caught and bowled Dilshan Munaweera on Tuesday night, it was Mortaza’s 100th T20 wicket in 121 games. Shakib Al Hasan, with 262 scalps, is the only other Bangladeshi with 100 or more wickets in the game’s shortest format.

A poor batting show overshadowed the milestone. After Mortaza won the toss, Sri Lanka’s steady bowling restricted Bangladesh to 155 for 6. Then, Kusal Perera hit a 53-ball 77 to get the job done with seven balls to spare. The highlight of the innings was that he batted sensibly till the 19th over. Having opened the innings, he was out with only eight runs left to win.

It was Perera’s first international game since the Boxing Day Test against South Africa last year, and he said time away from the circuit had helped him refocus. Dropped after failing in his last Test, Perera made runs for Sri Lanka A against England Lions in the List A games before returning to the senior squad.

“Sometimes you have to be prepared to fail. I realised I got a lot of starts but wasn’t finishing things off. Getting those 20s and 30s are of no use either to me or the team,” Perera said after winning the man of the match award. “So, I strove to bat till the end. When the loose ball comes, I am anyway waiting to hit it, but recently I tried to bat long, and that’s what helped me.”

While Perera would want to replicate his formula and Lasith Malinga would want to get his bearings right before joining Mumbai Indians for the IPL, Bangladesh would be keen to level the series to give its captain the perfect send-off.

Teams (from):

Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga (capt), Dilshan Munaweera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Lasith Malinga, Isuru Udana, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dasun Shanaka, Vikum Sanjaya, Milinda Siriwardana, Asela Gunaratne, Seekkuge Prasanna, Chamara Kapugedara, Thisara Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Shehan Jayasuriya, Kusal Perera (wk).

Bangladesh: Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Sabbir Rahman, Mahmudullah Riyad, Mosaddek Hossain shaikat, Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed, Subashis Roy, Sunzamul Islam, Nurul Hasan, Mehedi Hasan, Mohammad Saifuddin.

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