The sight of Mahmudullah Riyad coming down the dressing room steps has provided succour to Bangladesh fans for years now, and it is because he has been the man for crisis. It certainly was a crisis when he came in at 87 for five against Afghanistan in their Asia Cup game on Sunday, but when he left he had helped stage a full recovery and set up a thrilling three-run win.
“Yes, I do [enjoy being the crisis man],” Mahmudullah, adjudged player of the match after adding the wicket of Afghanistan opener Mohammad Shahzad and a fine catch to dismiss Asghar Afghan at a crucial stage, said after the match. “The pressure gives me the opportunity to get into my rhythm and give back to my team as well. Pressure will always be there. We just need to find out ways to handle it, that's all.”
Mahmudullah came into the match with a cloud over his ability to handle Afghanistan’s ace leg-spinner Rashid Khan, having been completely bamboozled by the world’s top-ranked ODI bowler during Bangladesh’s 136-run loss to the same opponents on Thursday.
“We all know that Rashid Khan is a very outstanding bowler,” Mahmudullah said. “He is playing very well and is one of the strike bowlers around the world. That does not mean however that he is unplayable. Maybe we couldn't apply ourselves against him the way we wanted. In our [Mahmudullah and Imrul Kayes’s 128-run sixth-wicket] partnership, our plan was to not give Rashid our wicket. We dug deep and we saw it through till the end.”
Having struggled to read his googly on Thursday, Mahmudulllah at first hunkered down and focused only on singles against the leg-spinner. But when he had settled down and Rashid came back to bowl in the death overs, hit him for two sixes over square leg – picking up the googly perhaps for the first time.
“I didn't do too much,” said Mahmudullah when asked what he had done in the intervening days to be able to read the variation – something he probably had not been able to do before Sunday. “We played three times in four days, so there wasn't much time to think. I was just playing with an empty mind.”