It couldn’t have been any more emphatic for the Tigers. An eight-wicket victory to start the five-match series against Zimbabwe at their own backyard just lighted up the Grameenphone Cup at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo yesterday.

Carrying their form and confidence from the Caribbean and not distracted by the shock loss in the practice match, Bangladesh made a statement loud and clear, we are here to win.

And who is better to lead the way than their most successful batsman, Mohammad Ashraful? Once again he led Bangladesh to their victory with a magnificent unbeaten century, one that was full of class, temperament, cleverness and audacity.

Ashraful hammered a run-a-ball 103 as Bangladesh chased down a modest Zimbabwe total of 207 with a lavish 15.3 overs to spare. Ashraful, who struck a dozen boundaries and a couple of sixes, completed his third hundred by running down a ball to the third-man boundary. His bout with left-arm spinner Raymond Price was the highlight of an otherwise one-sided match. Understandably irked after being taunted by the bowler, Ashraful hit back by smashing a six followed by three successive fours in the 15th over that produced 19 runs.Tigers prey on the Lions

It all started with Tamim Iqbal and Zunaed Siddiqui getting the innings off to a flyer on a pitch that lived up to its reputation as a belter. Tamim thrashed the second ball of the innings from Elton Chigumbura through point for four followed by a splendid straight drive for the same result. His opening partner Zunaed provided even harsher treatment to the other bowler, Chamu Chibhaba, spanking him for three boundaries in different directions. The bowler had the last laugh though, as Zunaed played one drive too many, this time going straight to the hands of Graeme Cremer at mid-off. Bangladesh had raced to 30 in four overs by then, 28 of those coming in boundaries and Zunaed contributing 21 off only 12 balls.

Zimbabwe skipper Prosper Utseya was quick to read the signs and brought himself on as early as the sixth over in a bid to stem the flow of runs. Ashraful was cautious to start, probably not in form as yet, left a few deliveries outside the off-stump and dealt with the spin carefully. But he was soon to join the act as he slashed two slightly wide deliveries from Utseya through point for back-to-back boundaries. Both batsmen were looking at ease with the bowling as they maintained a steady run-rate of six through the first two powerplays. Zimbabwe’s most experienced bowler Price was taken to task by Ashraful as the spinner was dispensed to all parts of the ground including a huge six over long-on. Both the batsmen soon got to their fifties and started to milk in the boundaries without showing much respect to any of the bowlers. Utseya tried out all his options, but no one seemed to make any impact on the scoring rate as the Tigers raced towards the target. Tamim’s late dismissal brought a few cheers from the crowd and a few smiles on the Zimbabwe players, but was too little to bring in any decisive turnaround for the home team. Ashraful inserted his total command over this benign attack and led the visitors to a most convincing victory, beating their bitter rivals by eight wickets and 15 overs left.

Earlier, having won the toss and electing to bowl first on a wicket with some grass that surely had some assistance for the pacemen early on. And the pacers didn’t take long to reward their skipper.

Syed Rasel, the left arm seamer with very little pace, used the early moisture expertly and beat opener Hamilton Masakadza a couple of times before the batsman went after a wide ball only to nick it to keeper Mushfiqur Rahim. The other opener Mark Vermeulen, back after a long time in the wilderness, would go on to play a commanding knock.

Along with Rasel, other pacer Nazmul Hossain kept the batsmen quiet for most part, occasionally faltering in line and length and being duly punished for. The second wicket to fall was Chibhaba having scored only 7 runs. Nazmul bowled a back of a length delivery outside off-stump, and the batsman got a thin edge to the keeper with the score on 25.

It was in the 13th over that spin was introduced as captain Shakib Al Hasan brought himself into the attack and immediately made some impact as he had a loud appeal against Vermeulen for lbw only to be tuned down by the umpire. Enamul Haque was brought in at the other end.

Shakib was unlucky again a few overs later as Vermeulen swung one high over midwicket but the fielder (Nazmul) under that one, having all the time in the world, spilled it in the end. That proved to be a costly mistake. Shakib however got the reward for his consistent line and length when he trapped Brendan Taylor in front of the wicket. The batsman might consider himself a bit unlucky as replays showed that he got a thin inside edge as he defended, and he had got a massive stride in as well.

Vermeulen, at the other end, was batting quite comfortably, no sign of rustiness from his long absence from international cricket. He milked deliveries on all parts and hit boundaries occasionally as he reached his 50 off just 73 deliveries.

Chris Coventry came in and was looking ominous as he hit a boundary and a six off to race off to 19 before Shakib made a surprising change to bring on Ashraful who with his very first delivery lured the batsman to play a big shot towards mid-wicket, but he top-edged it and Mahmudullah took a well-judged catch just within the rope.

The later batsmen came in and played a few lusty blows but eventually were skittled by Nazmul who outshone others taking three wickets for 29 in 6.5 overs. Once looking good for a 230-plus score, the Zimbabweans tottered to the modest total before being all out in the 48th over. source: The Daily Star