Bangladesh eye quarters, but mission is accomplished


CHITTAGONG – Bangladesh will go into their final Group B match against South Africa on Saturday with a World Cup quarter-final place at stake but a feeling that they have already accomplished their mission. Before the tournament, the World Cup co-hosts had targeted beating Ireland, Netherlands and one of the top-ranked sides and they have done just that thanks to a shock defeat of England with two wickets to spare.
What Shakib Al Hasan and his men had not bargained on was that England would also slip against Ireland which means that another upset for Bangladesh against South Africa here would take them through to the final eight. Defeat for Ireland against the Proteas on Tuesday and a West Indian victory over England on Thursday in Chennai would put the Bangladeshis through, regardless of Saturday’s result.
Shakib, however, was taking nothing for granted after Bangladesh had comfortably seen off the Dutch on Monday with six wickets and 52 balls to spare. “I am not too sure how relaxing the South Africa game will be for us but at least I am now confident that if we can play to our potential we will be able to beat any side,” he said.
Even if England beat the men from the Caribbean and Bangladesh lose, there is a possibility that the sub-continental team would go through on run-rate calculations but Shakib said he was not even thinking about that possibility. “We haven’t put up big totals on the board in this tournament, so it is not depending on the run-rate. I don’t think we can cover it now,” said Shakib. “If West Indies beat England, that’s fine. Otherwise, we have to win against South Africa. It is as simple as that,” he said.
“Winning the two matches (v England on Friday and Netherlands on Monday) in a span of three days will have helped to boost our confidence level. “We won one match through hard labour (England game) while one match was a pretty easy one, and it taught us a lot of lessons,” he said. Team comes first for unrewarded Shafiul: It’s not often that a match-winning performance on the cricket field gets overlooked when adjudicators decide man of the match awards.
But it has happened three times to Bangladesh seamer Shafiul Islam in this World Cup, each time the award going to batsmen who are as surprised as team-mates and fans alike by the choice. The 21-year-old had put on spirited displays with bat and ball to keep Bangladesh’s dream alive of playing in the knock-out rounds of a tournament they are co-hosting for the first time. After Bangladesh were restricted to 205 by Ireland on a good surface in Dhaka, Shafiul produced a burst of 4-21 that helped bowl out the rivals for 178.
Opener Tamim Iqbal, who won the award for making 44 and taking a crucial catch, admitted then that Shafiul deserved the honour more than him. Against England, Bangladesh plunged to 169-8 chasing a modest target of 226, when Shafiul and Mohammad Mahmudullah turned the game on its head by adding 58 unbeaten runs for the ninth wicket. Tailender Shafiul came out swinging to make 24 not out, including the only six of the day in seasoned off-spinner Graeme Swann’s final over which cost 16 runs.
But the man of the match award went to Imrul Kayes for scoring 60 at the top of the order. “Shafiul should have got it,” said Kayes, who won his second award on Monday against the Netherlands for 73 not out as Bangladesh chased down 160 for the loss of four wickets. Dutch captain Peter Borren credited Bangladesh’s success to Shafiul, who conceded just seven runs in his first six overs to restrict the rivals to 28-0 by the ninth over.
“Shafiul bowled very well today,” Borren said. “He was consistent and did not bowl bad balls. “We were looking at opportunities of scoring in the initial powerplays when the ball was hard, but to be honest Shafiul did not allow us to do that. “He went without a wicket, but probably deserved many.”
The unassuming Shafiul, the son of a grocery shop owner in Bogra town, played down the rebuff from adjudicators. “It’s okay, I don’t mind it at all,” he said. “The important thing is that the team wins. The man of the match is just a tag.” For Shafiul, wearing the green Tigers jersey is the ultimate honour.
“When I as growing up, I would wear fake Bangladesh shirts while playing in my neighbourhood. I never expected I will wear the real one some day.” Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan saluted Shafiul, calling him a vital cog in the team’s prospects.