Bangladesh were kept under pressure by Zimbabwe for short periods in both innings, but the hosts were always only a partnership or a wicket away from taking command, and duly went up 4-0 in the five-match series with the 21-run win in Mirpur.
Zimbabwe did however record their best bowling figures, highest opening partnership, first 100-plus partnership, and first 200-plus score. But none of these could produce their first win on tour. They restricted Bangladesh to 256 for 8 in 50 overs, but could only muster 235 for 8 in reply.
Brendan Taylor top-scored with 63 but it was Solomon Mire who impressed with his second ODI fifty, which featured a number of ferocious hits. He was dropped on 32 by Abul Hasan at deep fine-leg, and made good use of it. He and Taylor added 106 runs for the fourth wicket and were threatening to have a tilt at the 257-run target. But once the pair got out in successive overs, with Zimbabwe still needing 85, the visitors never really got back on track.
Taylor struck seven fours, while Mire smashed four fours and two sixes each over long-on and midwicket, with the second one bringing up his fifty. Mire, however, was also the first to fall in the partnership, giving cover a simple catch as he drove without moving his feet against Jubair Hossain. Taylor got out trying his brand of the trampoline shot with Zimbabwe entering the second Powerplay.
Elton Chigumbura could not provide the required fireworks, adding just 11 runs in 4.3 overs following the fifth wicket. Peter Moor and Regis Chakabva looked like the wrong batsmen at the slog overs, as the required run-rate soared out of their grasp.
Bangladesh had earlier based their innings on two partnerships which counter-balanced two batting collapses. Mahmudullah was the common factor in both stands, adding 134 for the fifth wicket with Mushfiqur Rahim, and 65 for the eighth with Mashrafe Mortaza.
Mahmudullah made 82, his highest ODI score and his first half-century in 18 months. He struck six fours in his 112-ball knock, an innings of supporting nature that had its share of attractive strokes. He made sure Mushfiqur and Mashrafe were fed the strike and remained on the attack.
The pitch also offered a bit of movement and slow bounce, which made it difficult to keep shots under control. The seamers Neville Madziva and Mire took three wickets each, and though they took a bit of a hammering towards the end, kept the Bangladesh batsmen on their toes. Legspinner Tafadzwa Kamungozi was disciplined in his 10 overs, taking two crucial wickets.
Bangladesh did not enjoy as good a start with the bat as they did in the second and third ODIs. The opening partnership lasted just four overs when Anamul Haque missed a straight ball that would have hit middle-stump had it not hit his back leg. Having struck his second boundary in the tenth over by backing away and steering the ball through the off side, Tamim Iqbal tried the same shot in the next over and picked out sweeper cover. Hamilton Masakadza did not have to move and Mire had picked up his first international wicket.
Four balls later, Brendan Taylor snapped up a one-handed catch as Imrul tried to hit one over his head at midwicket. In the very next over, Shakib scooped a Mire slower ball to mid-off. It was fun times for Zimbabwe as the haze took over Mirpur.
But from 32 for 4, Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah wrested back the initiative. Mushfiqur drove business-like through the covers, clipped through square-leg and brought out the square drive against the offspinner Vusi Sibanda. He was severe on the short ball and lofted over cover with aplomb. He hit one four, with his favoured slog sweep, but it was this shot that also brought his end in the 38th over.
Mushfiqur made a 78-ball 77, with seven fours, but it felt like an innings cut short in its prime due to the batsman’s impatience. Two more wickets fell soon after. Sabbir Rahman’s sweep found the deep square-leg fielder off Kamungozi, while Abul Hasan spooned one to mid-off to give Mire his third wicket. Mahmudullah, however, remained steady and joined with Mashrafe to take charge of the last ten overs, as they made sure Bangladesh neared the 250-mark.
When Zimbabwe replied, Shakib Al Hasan provided Bangladesh with the first two wickets by getting rid of Masakadza and Sibanda. The latter was the first to fall, trapped leg-before as he pressed forward and was struck in front. Masakadza was beautifully opened up with Shakib’s arm-ball and soon after, Jubair got his first ODI wicket off his fifth ball, beating Timycen Maruma with a googly as Zimbabwe slipped to 60 for 3 by the 17th over.
Shakib was excellent till the tenth over, taking 2 for 28, while Rubel Hossain and Jubair also picked up two scalps apiece. Jubair was slightly expensive, but as only the second specialist legspinner to play an ODI for Bangladesh, he did a decent job.
Ultimately, Zimbabwe’s batting recovery, from 60 for 3, was not as effective as Bangladesh’s fifth or eighth-wicket stands, and now the visitors find themselves just one loss away from a double whitewash.