“Team-mates gave me the freedom to play my natural game,” says comeback man Afif Hossain
Afif Hossain scored 52 off 26 balls. (AFP Image)

Bangladesh were aided by a 26-ball 52 by 19-year-old Afif Hossain as the home team beat Zimbabwe by three wickets on Friday. In a rain-hit encounter, which was reduced to 18-over-per-side content, chasing 144/5, Bangladesh were struggling at 60/6 inside 10 overs before Afif and Mosaddek Hossain came together for an 82-run partnership which put the chase back on track and helped chase down the target.

READ: Bangladesh survive scare to beat Zimbabwe

“Nothing much [was said before I went to bat]. Everyone just told me to play my natural game,” Afif told reporters after the match. “They gave me freedom to play with my own style. My intention was to play my natural game and try to bat according to the situation.”

Afif, playing only his second T20I, came to bat at the fall of Bangladesh’s fifth wicket – Sabbir Rahman – and off the very first ball, the batsman scored a boundary down the ground.

“Of course that [first boundary] changed the momentum but they tried to attack leaving four fielders outside [the circle], and then when I tried I could just pick the ball so I could hit the first ball,” he said. “After seeing the set up, I thought they could bowl in that area so there was 50-50 chance. So I took that chance and he bowled it there, then it turned out to be a four.”

Afif’s innings overshadowed an equally crucial knock from Ryan Burl, whose whirlwind unbeaten 57 off 32 balls propelled Zimbabwe to 144. Like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe too found themselves in trouble, with their top five batsmen back for just 63 runs, but an unbeaten 81-run stand off 51 balls between Burl and Tinotenda Mutombodzi lifted the score towards the end.

Afif made his international debut in February 2018 against Sri Lanka. After being dismissed for a duck, he went back to domestic circuit and scored runs to receive a call back. In fact, last month, against Sri Lanka’s emerging team, Afif scored 100*, 54 and 68* and had also represented Bangladesh A in July.

“I did not care that I was dropped and I was only eyeing to perform at my best wherever I play so that I can come back,” said Afif. “The real debut was one year before. In the second match I tried to contribute so that I can hold my place in the team. I am really satisfied with my performance because I played a match winning innings but had I remained not out, I would have felt better.”