The line between success and failure can be cruelly thin in cricket. The difference between a delivery without a ball and a legitimate delivery, a four and a six, or a catch with a ground connection and a clean one is a matter of millimeters, and Zimbabwe learned so much in its opening of the tour in Bangladesh. The visitors had done a lot in their opening save with the ball, but they fell on the wrong side of that narrow line in the moments that really mattered.
That made all the difference in a game during which the ascent frequently oscillated between two parties that have become very accustomed in the last decade. Zimbabwe eliminated six windows within the first 30 excesses, but Imrul Kayes and Mohammad Saifuddin plundered 85 of the last ten, including seven fours and four sixes.
Cephas Zhuwao launched a chase to Zimbabwe with a quick 35, but by the time the visitors had faced half of their overlaps, they were five down and the match turned once again, and this time decisively in favor of Bangladesh. Zimbabwe captain Hamilton Masakadza ruined the missed opportunities in crucial points of the game after his team slipped to a 28-race loss.
"Due to the way the game was resolved, we played very well, but there were a couple of inflection points in the game," said Masakadza. "If those had followed our path, it would have been a totally different game."
Zimbabwe could have had one of those in their favor if Brandon Mavuta could have had the chance to play in the deep square leg when Imrul was only seven. It runs in his name. Instead, the ball slid through his hands and went to four, and Kayes continued cheerfully at his best moment of his career at 144.
Zimbabwe then saw that he missed another opportunity in the 31st stage of the innings. Kyle Jarvis had just taken his third wicket in the space of two shots and Bangladesh looked desperately drifting in 139 for 6. Dipa Tiripano found the edge of Saifuddin's bat, and the ball went off to Craig Ervine on the first slide. The capture was retained, but immediately the referees conferred and, crucially, the soft signal of Kumar Dharmasena was not issued.
That meant that third referee Rod Tucker had to find conclusive evidence that the capture was taken cleanly to reverse the decision, but innumerable repetitions offered little clarity, and Saifuddin survived. Then he added 127 with Kayes, a new Bangladeshi record for the seventh gate.
"They are fine lines," said Masakadza. "I felt that if this checkpoint had been given, it would definitely have been a turning point, but they are fine lines in cricket, sometimes those are obtained, sometimes not, and today we did not achieve it and that put our back foot down".
Zimbabwe has been in the back foot a terrible lot this year, having lost eleven ODIs in a row, and Bangladesh has now won the last eleven ODI between the two sides as well. Zimbabwe's batting is in a particularly low position: in their last nine games, they have been beaten in less than 50 on seven occasions.
The signs are not all bad. Seven hitters got into the 20s during their pursuit, starting and entering, but nobody was able to last longer than Sean Williams. Masakadza hopes that Zimbabwe can begin to solve big problems by solving the small ones, starting by dividing their batting and bowling efforts into pieces of ten and concentrating on uniting them.
"We just have to make sure we win a few more blocks of what we did today, and we pushed a little more than we did today," he said. "The boys played well in death to get us so close in. I really did not think we'd get where we came in. We lost the last block of 10 pretty bad, which really made us back down, if we had a little better death, we would not have been chasing We won [first ten overs] in the batting, but we lost the one in the bowling alley too far ".