Almost all the questions were raised regarding Bangladesh's batting, especially the repeated top-order debacles during their 3-0 ODI series whitewash at the hands of hosts New Zealand, which was sealed with an emphatic 88-run defeat in Dunedin on Wednesday.
Bangladesh's top order was unable to put up any sort of resistance against the Kiwi pacers throughout the series, which played a major part in the undesirable outcome so close to the 2019 World Cup. However, while trying to find answers to why the likes of Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim, Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah Riyad failed miserably, one thing that skipped many eyes was that the bowling was also nowhere near the acceptable standard.
It was only in the third ODI that Bangladesh's bowling unit was truly tested. For the first time in the series Mashrafe Bin Mortaza's side bowled the whole 50 overs after electing to field first, whereas the previous two ODIs saw the Kiwi batsmen chase down Bangladesh's below par scores of 232 and 226 in 44.3 overs and 36.1 overs respectively, with eight wickets to spare each time.
The most concerning part came to the fore in the third ODI is how two of the leading pacers in Bangladesh's current squad -- Mustafizur Rahman and Rubel Hossain -- were taken for plenty by New Zealand. The nation's ace left-arm quick, Mustafizur took two wickets in the third game but conceded 93 runs in 10 overs at an alarming economy rate of 9.3, while Rubel -- although just playing his first match on tour -- leaked 64 in nine overs, scalping a solitary wicket.
It was, however, the ease with which the Kiwis batted on their way to posting a mammoth total that spoke more about the struggle of Bangladesh's bowlers in such conditions. New Zealand batsmen Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham -- all of whom scored fifties -- did not try anything out of the box, but just stayed on their back for most of their innings and played each ball according to merit, exactly the way it should be done on such a flat surface as the one at the University Oval.
Over the three ODIs, Bangladesh have conceded 792 runs in 130.4 overs at an economy of 6.07 runs and were able to pick up just 10 Kiwi wickets altogether. This provides a glimpse into how easily New Zealand dealt with Bangladesh's bowlers throughout the series.
Maybe the absence of star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, who missed out the ODI series due to a finger injury, could be pointed out for such horrendous bowling figures but such can also be said for the much talked about batting mishaps. And as missing Shakib due to injury in series has become a frequent reality in the past year, it can no longer be used as an excuse as Shakib-less Tigers have provided quite a few impactful performances in recent past -- the positive results in last year's Asia Cup being the biggest example.
With the World Cup in sight, the sole take away from the series could be how some players -- Mohammad Saifuddin, Sabbir Rahman, Mohammad Mithun and Mehedi Hasan Miraz-- have stepped up while regular and expected performers like Tamim, Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah went missing.
Mehedi added a valuable 26, 16 and 37 runs at the death in the three ODIs respectively while his performance with the ball in the last ODI, where Bangladesh had conceded over 300 runs, was praiseworthy. The young all-rounder had ended the game with comparatively economical figures of one wicket for 43 runs in nine overs. Mithun looked impressive during his back-to-back fifties in the first two ODIs before missing the last one due to a hamstring injury.
Saifuddin put in an all-round performance throughout the series and announced himself as a genuine pace-bowling all-rounder -- the type of player that could lend balance to any team. The all-rounder had twice scored forties in the series and was also instrumental with the ball too.
It was Sabbir who perhaps stood tallest among the lot as he scored his maiden ODI ton in the last game and marked his return to the national fold in style after having shown glimpses in the first two games. The right-hander celebrated his 110-ball 102 in animated fashion, indicating that he lets his bat do the talking now. And yes, a Bangladesh fan would love to see more of the same words from Sabbir's bat in the future.
There is a silver lining. Some of the failures in the top order -- Tamim, Mushfiqur, Riyad -- are giants of Bangladesh cricket. Their woes were anomalies, and one could bet that they will fire back soon enough. The positives are that the performers in the tour used to represent a headache for the team management and their advent is surely a boon. However, as this tour proved, it counts for little if the whole team is not firing, and that is what they will have to work on.