Four years ago, on the eve of the Asia Cup 2018 final, Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza hinted that there might be a surprise in the opening slot. That match against India saw Mehidy Hasan Miraz opening the innings for the first time in international cricket. It was a surprising call from the talismanic captain but he knew what he was doing.
Miraz responded really well and did probably better than what the captain and management expected. He had a couple of good innings in the lower order before but that 32 off 59 was a significant knock. It wasn't probably the most fluent knock in the world but the way he negated the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar with the new ball was commendable. It also ended Bangladesh's string of low scores in the opening stand.
That innings proved his prowess with the bat and showed he had the game to stand up to high-class bowling. And when he smashed those winning runs on Sunday to pull off a heist and notched up a career-best century to bail Bangladesh out of trouble on Wednesday, it thrilled everyone but surprised none. Everyone knew he had it in him to do that.
Earlier, he along with Afif Hossain scripted a comeback for the ages against Afghanistan in February. But doing it against India and that too under immense pressure is not easy. The calmness that Miraz showed in both the innings was no short of extraordinary.
Enough has been spoken and written about that miraculous innings on Sunday. Miraz bettered his Sunday knock on Wednesday and became only the second batter in the history of ODIs to rack up a hundred batting at number eight or lower.
Bangladesh's innings in the second ODI can be divided into two halves. The first half, before Miraz came into the middle, was a horrible period for the hosts. Balls beat the outside edge every now and then, someone like Shakib Al Hasan copped blows after blows on the body, seasoned campaigners like him and Mushfiqur Rahim struggled against spin.
But Miraz seemed to be playing on a different pitch altogether. He went about run-a-ball before launching towards the back end. When his senior partner Mahmudullah struggled a bit to maintain a good strike-rate, Miraz hardly faced any problem to rotate the strike and find odd boundaries.
He was very strong behind square on the off side as he played late against spin. Those deft touches fetched him 21 runs off just 12 balls. Miraz also enjoyed pace on the ball, clubbing two boundaries through the covers and ramping one over deep third man off a pacy Umran Malik in the penultimate over. Umran was the same bowler who gave the likes of Shakib and Najmul Hossain Shanto a torrid time earlier. Miraz scored 25 off 16 Umran Malik deliveries he faced.
Washington Sundar was India's best bowler in that match but Miraz played him comfortably too. The right hander scored 19 off 23 deliveries from the off-spinner and the others combined to score 18 off the rest - 37 deliveries - and give away three crucial wickets.
Shardul Thakur is a good exponent of the slower ball and his knuckle ball made him a difficult customer to deal with in the IPL. But Miraz read those slowers pretty well and launched two sixes through the midwicket region in the final over before taking a single to complete his hundred. The slog shot brought him a lot of runs and 28 of his 100 runs came through the midwicket region at a strike-rate of 200.
Miraz's onslaught helped Bangladesh score 68 off the last five overs and it was their best effort during this period in ODIs. To score a hundred against a capable Indian bowling line-up is an achievement itself and it becomes more important when it comes under pressure. Bangladesh were 69 for six at one stage and Miraz along with Mahmudullah (76) forged a record stand to register a competitive total.
He now averages a mammoth 106 in four innings against India and is yet to be dismissed in this series. He started the series with an average of 18.87 and it stands now at 23.53. Miraz likes playing against India. Even before that 32 in the Asia Cup final, he scored a fine 42 off 50 against India in the same tournament. His innings against India in ODIs read - 42, 32, 38*, 100*.
Miraz averages 81.75 with the bat this year in ODIs, the most by a Bangladeshi batter. The strike-rate of 85 is also respectable. And he is comfortably the most prolific bowler for Bangladesh in this format with 23 wickets in this period.
In 2018, he was the solution - albeit makeshift - to Bangladesh's opening woes. Four years later, he once again proves to be the man for crisis. And there's no better place to rack up your career-best performance in front of a deafening home crowd against a team like India.
A day ago, Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo was asked if Miraz could be someone to take Shakib's place in future. "Maybe," said Domingo but after this performance, it shouldn't be surprising to have a different answer if he is asked the same question again.