Never-say-die Shafiul and cool Mahmudullah do it for Bangladesh

Bangladesh showed why cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. They also showed why a match is not over until the last ball is bowled, the last wicket falls or the last run is scored. In a very crucial group B match of the ICC Cricket World Cup at Chittagong, Bangladesh prevailed in a tight finish over an England team that once again displayed a lethargic bowling performance.

Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan won the toss and decided to bowl first keeping in mind the fact that it would be very difficult to bowl at night when the dew would be a factor. His spinners rose to the occasion as they tied the England batting down. Matt Prior reverted to the opener’s role but was dismissed when he failed to stick to the basics. He missed a leg side delivery from Abdur Razzak and was stumped by Mushfiqur Rahim but his foot was inside the crease. Inexplicably he seemed to go for a run when the ball was still in the keeper’s hands and was stumped a second time! Andrew Strauss cut a ball straight to the widish slip fielder and Ian Bell chipped straight to the fielder at midwicket.

England were 53/3 at this stage and in a similar position they were against South Africa the other day. Eoin Morgan, back in the side to shore up the middle order, and the dependable Jonathan Trott set about rebuilding the innings. The runs were hard to come by but it was Morgan who broke the shackles as he came down the track to send a ball over midwicket for four welcome runs. Four more boundaries came in the next five overs as England realized that attack was the best defence. The pair was hard to dislodge as they rotated the strike and ensured the scoreboard moved.

Morgan was the first to get to his fifty in the 35th over. Trott got to his in the next over as England looked good to post a total in excess of 250. But in the 39th over, Imrul Kayes provided the moment of inspiration that Bangladesh needed. A sweep got the top edge of Morgan’s bat and Kayes ran in from the boundary at fine leg to catch the ball inches from the ground.

Ravi Bopara was not as fluent as Morgan and England again found the runs hard to come. With the pressure to score quick runs, Trott tried to force the pace against Shakib but found the fielder at long off. With a set batsman dismissed, it was always going to be difficult for England now and they duly folded for 225 in the 50th over. The spinners bowled 33 overs between them, conceded just 140 runs and picked seven wickets.

Bangladesh got off to a dream start as Tamim Iqbal raced to 38 off just 26 balls. But in the 9th over, he played across to a full length delivery from Tim Bresnan and lost his stumps. Junaid Siddique, under pressure to perform, hit a boundary to midwicket followed by an edge through slips for another four. But James Anderson’s direct hit saw Siddique return to the pavilion and when Raqibul Hasan was bowled by Ajmal Shahzad, Bangladesh had slid to 73/3.

Shakib joined the determined Imrul Kayes and together forged a sensible partnership. The pair relied mostly on singles but punished the loose balls. As the partnership grew and the dew started soaking the ball, England’s bowlers started losing their cool. Graeme Swann was not particularly happy and could be seen arguing with the umpire Daryl Harper. At the 30 over mark, Bangladesh were 149/3 with just 77 needed in 120 balls. In the 31st over, Kayes was run out going for an ill judged second run. He had played very well till then scoring 60 and holding the fort.

The pressure was back on Bangladesh now and England picked a crucial wicket of Shakib in the 36th over as he tried to sweep but edged the ball on to the stumps. Ajmal Shahzad then produced two beautiful balls to get Mushfiqur Rahim and Naeem Islam dismissed. When Abdur Razzak skied to Bresnan, Bangladesh were 169/8 and staring down the barrel. They had lost 5 wickets for 14 runs in 8.5 overs.

Graeme Swann’s final over turned out to be disastrous for England. A reverse sweep for four from Mahmudullah was followed by a big swing for four over cover by Shafiul Islam and he bettered that shot with a six to long on as the over fetched 16 valuable runs. Mahmudullah now realized that Shafiul was striking the ball well and he judiciously rotated the strike. The pair calmly nudged away at the target and England wilted. Two boundaries off Bresnan in the 47th over brought the equation down to 12 off 18 balls and a crucial boundary in the 48th over brought it down to 5 off the last two overs.

Mahmudullah finished the contest in the last ball of the 49th over with a cover drive that went for four runs. Bangladesh were ecstatic having done the incredible and England were dejected that another close game had gone out of their grasp. Shafiul and Mahmudullah were feted by the crowd as Bangladesh got their belief back after the pounding against West Indies in their previous game.

England have only themselves to blame for this defeat as their strategy after Bangladesh had slipped to 169/8 defied logic. Spraying the ball around when the tail is batting was not going to work. James Anderson is having a forgettable World Cup and needs a break from the game. The batsmen, especially Ian Bell, need to work hard on how they are going to play spin. One more game remains and a loss will ensure England head home. A win might not be enough to book a quarter final spot either.

Bangladesh are back and with two more games left, will be drawing inspiration from the never-say-die attitude of Shafiul and the calmness of Mahmudullah to see them through to the quarter finals. An area they need to work on is the middle order batting. A shuffle of the batsmen would be a good idea – Shakib at No.3, Mushfiqur at No.4, Raqibul at No.5 and Siddique at No.6. Their bowlers are doing a great job and South Africa and Netherlands better beware. The tigers are on the prowl again.

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I'm an avid reader and writer. Reading gets me a feeling of understanding the world through different perspectives and writing helps me outline my thoughts from the cobwebs that the mind has trapped it in!

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