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Bangladesh hold nerve to produce another statement win

June 9th, 2017 | by admin
Bangladesh hold nerve to produce another statement win
Bangladesh
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Bangladesh returned to the scene of one of their finest hours, and the occasion brought out the best in two players who have been pivotal to their rise

Cardiff has again been good to Bangladesh. The full worth of a remarkable chase won’t be clear until Saturday evening, but Mashrafe Mortaza may have been tempted to find the number for a local limo firm even before knowing if England or the elements do them a favour to earn a semi-final spot after one of their great one-day performances.

They were taken to victory by their record ODI stand of 224 between Shakib Al Hasan, who carried Bangladesh during the fallow years and has since helped them rise, alongside Mahmudullah, a player who is inspired by global one-day tournaments. In the 2015 World Cup, Mahmudullah scored back-to-back centuries, the first against England in Adelaide, which set up the victory that put them into the quarter-finals, and the second against New Zealand. Today, he backed those up with another mighty showing.

This was his first ODI hundred since that New Zealand meeting in Hamilton, and it can rank alongside the England century as his finest innings. Shakib has achieved more in his 11-year career, but his hundred – brought up with a top-edged six over fine leg – can also sit in the highest echelons of his accomplishments. A slightly shell-shocked Kane Williamson called them “unbelievable knocks”.

When asked before the match how much rested on Tamim Iqbal after his scores of 128 and 95 in the first two games of the tournament, Mashrafe had been quick to remind everyone that Bangladesh’s rise up the one-day rankings has been far from a one-man show. And they had the perfect chance to show it here after Tamim was lbw to the second ball of the innings, but even Mashrafe doubted their chances from 33 for 4.

“To be honest at that time, it was very difficult,” he said. “But once the partnership got to 100 I started to believe because I knew that these two can make the difference as they have a lot of times. But I never thought that they will have more than a 200 partnership. That was phenomenal.

“We knew Tamim wasn’t going to get a score every day. That’s exactly what happened today. And we knew that we have some extraordinary players. I knew that Shakib and Mahmudullah could make a difference. We have the players, we knew that, and 266 we knew that it was gettable but after being 33 for 4 it was hard.”

There was a small crowd, the ground less than half full, but the majority were supporting Bangladesh and as reality dawned that the chase was on, the noise grew louder. “Bangladesh, Bangladesh,” rang around this corner of Cardiff. Well before the target was hunted down, Shakib and Mahmudullah were cantering, flogging a dispirited New Zealand attack to all parts of Sophia Gardens. This was another statement. Bangladesh have not reached the ranking of No. 6 by accident.

Both needed more than a dose of fortune to survive the new ball during one of the most testing periods of bowling seen in the tournament from Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Adam Milne’s rapid early burst. The partnership will go down in Bangladesh cricket folklore, but there was little chest-thumping emotion from the pair in the middle.

“There was nothing in my mind at that time,” Shakib said of the parlous scoreline he faced. “I was just thinking of batting as long as I can because there were so many overs left and not many wickets. When we had a 100-run partnership and were still in the game, then we were thinking we had a chance.

“The ball was doing a bit, the first 10 overs I thought they did really well and created a lot of chances. Once it stopped swinging it became easier.”

Without Shakib and Mahmudullah, Bangladesh would have been sunk, but they would have been chasing a tougher target if it had not been for a superb final 10 overs in the field when they kept New Zealand down to 62. The surprise package in that period was the offspin of Mosaddek Hossain, introduced in the 42nd over and finishing with 3 for 13, which was complemented by a series of pinpoint yorkers from Rubel Hossain and Mustafizur Rahman.

Mashrafe picked out Mosaddek’s brief but starring role. “You see that most of the days he bowls maybe three overs only and can change the game. He’s a youngster and can also bat really well.”

Regardless of whether Bangladesh progress, Mashrafe said that this experience will serve his younger players well ahead of the 2019 World Cup, which will also be staged in England and Wales. “We have been improving over the last three years and performances like this really help us move forward.”

This was a glorious day for Bangladesh. But now all they can do is wait. A squad of 15 players, the backroom staff, and hundreds of millions of fans around the world will be supporting England or cheering the rain at Edgbaston. Still, they will once again always remember Cardiff.

“It would be nice if England won, but we can’t just ask that Australia will lose that game,” Mashrafe said. “But I would like to say to both teams, best of luck. Whatever we could do, we did. That is the most important thing for us.”

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