- Ireland v Bangladesh, 3rd T20, Stormont
Dashing Mortaza shocks Ireland
Bangladesh 141 for 8 (Tamim 39, Mortaza 30, Stirling 3-21) beat Ireland 140 for 8 (Mortaza 4-19) by 2 wickets
Just when Ireland thought they finally had the beating of Bangladesh, a savage batting assault by Mashrafe Mortaza ended their hopes and gave the visitors a 3-0 win in the series. That margin was unfair to the Irish, who took two games to the very last ball.
It was a game that defied the notion that there can be none of the subtle changes in Twenty20 that make the longer forms of the game so captivating. This was a game that swung and shifted over 240 balls of mostly high-quality T20 cricket.
"The last two games were probably a better reflection of where both teams are," said Bangladesh coach Richard Pybus. "Ireland were out of sorts in the first game but the last two both went down to the wire," he said of a series which saw Bangladesh pull off victory margins of 71 runs, one run and two wickets.
Bangladesh needed 32 off 16 balls when Mortaza smashed three sixes off four balls from the left-arm spinner, George Dockrell, the last of which Kevin O'Brien misjudged and eventually knocked over the rope for another maximum.
With eight balls left Mortaza was bowled by Kevin O'Brien, leaving just four needed off the last over. And while Trent Johnston and his fielders made sure every run was hard-earned, the scores were tied with one ball left. A scampered single by Elias Sunny and a whisker-missed shy by Kevin O'Brien saw another close win for Bangladesh.
It was desperately disappointing for Ireland, who are using the games to build towards the ICC World Twenty20 finals in Sri Lanka in September. They play far fewer T20s than full members - this series was their first home games in the shortest format since 2008 - and their aim will be to up that number rapidly in the future.
Bangladesh were unchanged, but Phil Simmons gave Tim Murtagh a first T20I cap, replacing Alex Cusack, and recalled Niall O'Brien in place of Ed Joyce. Although O'Brien hit a frisky 22 he, like most of Ireland's batsmen, got in and then got out. The middle order crumbled yet again, with Kevin O'Brien struggling in a sequence that has seen him get out five times in the last ten balls he has faced for Ireland. He was out first ball here to Mortaza, the man of the match, whose career best 4 for 19 ensured Ireland totalled just 140 for 8.
Early wickets were essential, but Bangladesh openers Tamim Iqbal and Mohammed Ashraful settled in from a testing start to record their nation's first fifty opening stand in this format. Tamim also recorded his best score in 18 T20 internationals.
They had taken the score to 62 in the 10th over, with the spinners on, when Ashraful needlessly carted the ball to John Mooney at long off, and within two overs the score was 69 for 3.
Another flurry of wickets saw Bangladesh collapse to 89 for6 as Stirling and Dockrell exerted pressure. But just as the vociferous Irish crowd started to dream of a third win over these opponents, Mortaza and Mushfique Rahim put together a stand of 46 in 16 balls, which included the 21-run butchering of Dockrell's final over.
"I'm very happy with the spin quartet", said Pybus, "and the tour was good for our seamers too, who got experience of bowling in northern hemisphere conditions, learning that they have to get their lengths right.
"Our batting was pretty solid too, but we have a little work to do before the World Twenty20."