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Pace bowlers' success Mashrafe's reward

Rubel Hossain produced a double strike in the 49th over ICC

Bangladesh's pace bowlers have had their moments even in the recent past, but very few times in this team's history have they been as effective as a collective as they were against England in Adelaide. They took all the wickets that went to the bowlers, and it was evident that captain Mashrafe Mortaza placed a lot of faith in them.

Two examples from Monday evening demonstrate what Mashrafe saw in Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed that the rest of the world missed. First was when he finished Shakib Al Hasan's quota in the 47th over. Though he ended wicketless, Shakib had conceded just one boundary. Not many Bangladesh captains would take such a risk, but Mashrafe simply asked his two pace bowlers to defend 31 runs in the last three overs or take the remaining two wickets.

When Rubel did take the first of those wickets, in the 49th over, he put a slip in as James Anderson took guard. Again, past Bangladesh captains have focused more on protecting boundaries in these situations but Mashrafe believed that Rubel would keep angling towards the left-handed Anderson's off-stump, either hit the stumps or take the edge. Or he may have thought that a thin edge would slip past the wicketkeeper so a slip could even act as a stopper.

Mashrafe has shown a lot of confidence in this particular bowling attack, even on bad days against Sri Lanka and Scotland. Bangladesh conceded 300-plus totals in both games, with the three-man pace attack taking only five wickets between them and giving away runs at 6.79 and 7.13 per over respectively. If Rubel had been dropped after giving away 60 runs from his eight overs against Scotland, it wouldn't have been much of a surprise.

But that is not how Mashrafe thinks of the pace bowlers. He saw great body language from Rubel during the course of the England innings, and kept asking him to bring his side breakthroughs.

Mashrafe passionately defended them, saying that it was time pace bowling is taken seriously across all circles in Bangladesh cricket. They need more respect and care and better pitches back home, he said.

"I'm sorry to say but people have been talking rubbish about our pace bowling," Mashrafe said. "We know what we are. We know how capable we are. I hope people will surely start giving some respect. I'm really happy with our quicks, that they have shown the world how good they are. Hopefully this will bring their confidence up, and they will show again and again in this sort of tournament.

"Everyone expects us to be a team dependent on spin bowling. I think it is high time we get out of that mentality. If we want to take our cricket forward, we need to focus on pace bowling. Spin obviously works in certain countries, so it will be hard to shift to pace completely. But I think the pace bowlers need better care, and provide wickets where they feel some comfort. I would hope these bowlers continue to bowl in the same way back home - Rubel Hossain did so against New Zealand and Taskin Ahmed against India."

Mashrafe himself bowled superbly in this game, as he did against Afghanistan with the early breakthroughs. He would have given Bangladesh an early strike against Sri Lanka had it not been for Anamul Haque dropping Lahiru Thirimanne in the first over. Against England, Mashrafe bounced back after conceding three fours in his fourth over. He returned in the 20th over to get Alex Hales caught behind.

At the start of his three-over spell in the batting Powerplay, he removed the dangerous Joe Root and with him went England's chances. Two for 48 from ten overs was as good a spell he has ever bowled for Bangladesh.

He also praised Rubel, who took four England wickets, for bouncing back from a personal problem that landed him in jail less than two weeks before the team departed for the World Cup.

Rubel has been woeful in Tests and T20s for a number of years but has often used his skills better in ODIs. Less than two years ago, he took a hat-trick in a six-wicket haul against New Zealand. He has been expensive at this tournament but against England he generated enough seam movement and late swing to take the four wickets.

"He has been fantastic the last one-and-a-half years," Mashrafe said. "It's nice to see his bowling from mid-on or mid-off. He's swinging the ball, he's bowling fast, and I'm really happy that he takes all the pressure on his shoulders and delivered from the start.

"I should mention that he was been under tremendous pressure before coming to this World Cup. He put the pressure outside and showed his performance, and the whole world has seen how good he is. Hopefully he will continue."

Rubel and Taskin can be considered lucky to be playing under Mashrafe. He has often taken up the cause of the pace bowlers with authority, asked for better treatment and care. It is about time that Mashrafe is reaping the rewards of his conviction.