Five questions Bangladesh need to answer

Mashrafe Mortaza finds something interesting to look at AFP

In a fine turnaround after the disastrous Test series loss to West Indies, Bangladesh completed their first ODI series win in nearly two years. However, despite the 2-1 result in their favour, the visitors have a few loopholes to plug. With the Bangladesh A team set to play Ireland A in five List-A matches and three T20s starting next week, ESPNcricinfo poses five questions to the Bangladesh team management, the BCB and the selectors ahead of their next ODI challenge.

Who will open with Tamim Iqbal?

Anamul Haque hasn't done himself any favour with his 88 runs in seven ODIs this year. Mashrafe Mortaza's desire to pick him throughout this ODI series should have given Anamul enough confidence but he finished with only 33 runs in the three innings. The selectors had picked Anamul earlier this year after Imrul Kayes, Soumya Sarkar and Liton Das failed to grab the position firmly in 2016 and 2017. Mohammad Mithun was tried once, but he failed too.

The selectors could go back to Soumya or Liton, depending on their performance in the upcoming T20I series against West Indies. There is an outside chance that they may consider Nazmul Hossain Shanto, who sat out the entire ODI series, if he does well for Bangladesh A in Ireland.

Who will play the finisher's role?

Mahmudullah continues to thrive in the role of finisher, especially in the last five overs; his strike rate in that phase during this ODI series was 214.29. He has shown that getting off the blocks quickly in ODIs and T20Is suits his style, after he went through a transformation under previous coach Chandika Hathurusingha in January 2016.

In this series, Bangladesh batted Sabbir Rahman and Mosaddek Hossain behind Mahmudullah, without any success. Sabbir is out of form, and hasn't made a significant score in his last 14 innings, while Mosaddek is a traditional middle-order batsman who is yet to figure out how to approach the slog overs. Matters came to a head in the third ODI when Mashrafe promoted himself to start the slog early in the 39th over.

Mosaddek could play up the order to move Mahmudullah back down to his favoured role in the last 6-8 overs, while Sabbir clearly needs a break. Ariful Haque, a batsman who can go big in the last five overs, could get three chances in the T20I series so the team management know where they stand ahead of the bigger challenges that Bangladesh are to confront.

Is there a dearth in bowlers capable of handling slog overs?

In the last three years, Mustafizur Rahman has been the world's second-most economical bowler (minimum 100 balls) in the last five overs of ODI innings. Rashid Khan concedes 6.00 per over while Mustafizur is just a shade behind, at 6.08. He is a major asset to Bangladesh, especially at the death, but Bangladesh are over-reliant on his skills.

Rubel Hossain conceded 10.40 runs an over in the last five overs in this ODI series (and 7.89 in the last two years), a huge contrast from Mustafizur's 4.66 per over. Mashrafe and Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh's most experienced bowlers, only bowled two overs between them in this phase in the three matches.

The missing link here is Taskin Ahmed, who had been a wicket-taker in the slog overs until he lost form in South Africa last year. Shakib definitely remains an option while it may be too much to ask of Mashrafe, who already handles the new ball and has to bowl after the 30th over on most days.

Is Mehidy the long-term new-ball bowler?

Despite not taking enough wickets, Mehidy Hasan emerged as Bangladesh's best bowler in the ODI series. He constantly attacked the stumps with his changes of pace and subtle length variations, conceding only 3.73 per over in the first Powerplay. He is likely to continue in this role in the Asia Cup and in the home ODI series against Zimbabwe and West Indies. So by the time Bangladesh encounter seamer-friendly conditions in New Zealand in February, they will have only two new-ball options in Mashrafe (a constant since 2016) and Mehidy, as they close in on the 2019 World Cup match-ups.

Mustafizur's main work coming in the last 10 overs means Mashrafe is often reluctant to use him up front, so he is left with very few pace-bowling options with the new ball. During the first Powerplay, Rubel, Taskin and Shafiul Islam have also been sub-par in the last two years.

What is Bangladesh's bench strength?

Bangladesh have plenty of cricket in the next 10 months, building up to the 2019 World Cup. Along the way, they will want to develop in a few areas: a better pace attack in Tests, an ODI opener, and at least two aggressive middle-order batsmen. Shanto wasn't tested in any of the Tests or ODIs, and he will now join the Bangladesh A team in Ireland. Soumya, Liton and Ariful are batting options in the T20s against West Indies while Mominul Haque has been given a limited-overs lifeline in Ireland.

Mizanur Rahman, Saif Hassan, Al Amin and Afif Hossain are some of the Bangladesh A batsmen who have a chance to stake a claim, while Taskin Ahmed, Mohammad Saifuddin and rookie fast bowler Shariful Islam could get opportunities in Tests and T20Is.