Why do low scoring games have more thrills than high scoring games? Ireland and Bangladesh produced what has been the most exciting match of this World Cup so far at the Sher e Bangla stadium in Mirpur yesterday. The ferocity with which both the teams played their cricket was a treat to the eyes.
I had pointed out that Bangladesh had made two mistakes against India which cost them that match – Tamim Iqbal’s subdued batting and the lack of discipline on the part of their seamers. They perfectly ironed out these mistakes yesterday and reaped the rewards though their batting still needs a lot of improvement.
Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan won the toss and chose to bat first. They were given a flying start by Tamim as he scored two boundaries in the very first over – a drive through point and another straight through mid-off. He struck five more boundaries in the next four overs as Bangladesh reached fifty in just 5.4 overs. Tamim’s contribution to this fifty was 38 runs with seven boundaries. However, John Mooney struck in his second over as Imrul Kayes lost his balance trying to flick a ball down the leg side and was stumped by Niall O’Brien.
The wicket silenced the batsmen for some time as the Irish bowlers realized that lesser pace brought more rewards. Junaid Siddique ran himself out in the 9th over as Bangladesh slid to 61/2. Andre Botha then got Tamim to drive to point where skipper William Porterfield took a catch and the crowd was suddenly silent. Shakib started off with a crisp straight drive which went all the way to the boundary and followed that up with a boundary off a full toss in the next over.
Just when Shakib was looking good, he played early at a ball from Andre Botha and returned a catch back. Mushfiqur Rahim and Raqibul Hasan then added 61 for the 5th wicket with most of the runs coming through ones and twos as the Irish bowlers kept a tight leash on things. The teenaged left-arm spinner George Dockrell was particularly impressive. The batsmen had a hard time reading his spin which was well suited for the pitch. Rahim decided to play an ill-advised sweep against Dockrell and was caught by Andrew White at backward short leg. Mohammad Ashraful was dismissed in exactly the same manner in Dockrell’s next over.
Johnston and Botha shared the rest of the spoils as Bangladesh lost their last five wickets for only 58 runs. 205 was a disappointing total and Ireland were in with a chance to win this match. But the Bangladesh spinners had other ideas.
William Porterfield started the chase with an exquisite carve through point for four in the first over. Bangladesh attacked with Razzaq and it was evident that the runs were hard to come by. A combination of spin at both ends made matters more difficult for Ireland. The first breakthrough came in the form of Paul Stirling who was undone by a smart stumping from Mushfiqur Rahim as he fumbled against a full length delivery from Razzaq.
Shakib brought himself on in the 10th over and struck with his first ball as Porterfield could not keep a flick down and gave a catch to midwicket. Niall O’Brien started with two boundaries to keep things under control. He, along with Ed Joyce, ensured a steady trickle of runs to keep the Irish camp hopeful. Mohammad Ashraful, whose batting was poor, got a leading edge from Joyce whom he gleefully caught and the celebration was as if his team had won the World Cup. He then got Andrew White who erroneously played back and lost his stumps. The crowd was on its feet now and Bangladesh believed they can win this.
O’Brien, who until then was playing very well, then tried to work a ball to square leg but played it airily and Tamim took a marvellous catch as the ball was hitting the ground. Ireland were in deep trouble here and Bangladesh were going for the kill. The wicket brought Niall’s brother, Kevin O’Brien, to the crease and he made his intentions clear by attacking Ashraful. A straight six over long off was followed by three boundaries through midwicket, third man and cover. Shafiul Islam was brought back to the attack and Kevin straightaway pulled a ball to square-leg where substitute fielder Suhrawadi Shuvo made no mistake.
When John Mooney and Andre Botha were dismissed in the space of three balls, it was looking very difficult for Ireland. Shafiul Islam duly cleaned up the tail to set up a morale boosting 27 run win for Bangladesh. Shafiul ended up with 4 wickets for only 21 runs as he learned from his mistakes against India.
Bangladesh have hope now of making the quarter finals with their spinners reaping rich. They need to sustain this momentum in the coming matches and need to work on their batting. Ireland bowled very well but was found wanting in batting. They lost a close match and showed that they can compete at this level.