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New Zealand outclass Bangladesh
Prem Panicker | April 02, 2007 20:52 IST
Last Updated: April 03, 2007 01:34 IST
Captain Stephen Fleming's eighth one-day hundred guided New Zealand to a nine-wicket victory over Bangladesh in the World Cup Super Eights match in Antigua on Monday.
He hit 10 fours and three sixes and was unbeaten on 102 as the Kiwis, chasing a paltry 174, finished on 178 for one in 30th over.
Scott Styris claimed four wickets for 43 runs, medium-pacer Jacob Oram three for 30 and strike bowler Shane Bond 2 for 15, as Bangladesh slumped to their second straight defeat in the second round.
Having flubbed their Twentytwo-22 game against Australia, a chastened Bangladesh came out against New Zealand - courtesy Stephen Fleming's insertion - and opened in a style that was the polar opposite of the neck or nothing approach of the other day.
Shahriyar Nafees - who, this past season, has been the most prolific batsman for the team - sat this one out, and Javed Omar opened in his place. Neither he nor the tempestuous Tamim Iqbal looked to hit the ball with anything approaching intent, instead allowing the Kiwi opening bowlers to dictate terms.
Michael Mason pulled up midway through his second over and limped off the ground, clutching the back of his leg in a manner that suggested he had done a hamstring; the Kiwis rotated through Bond (who, as per usual, produced a brilliant first spell of 5-2-5-0), Franklin and Oram, with McMillan pressed into service to complete Mason's unfinished over.
The two openers played the odd pretty shot, with Omar looking good on his cover drives and Iqbal square on the on. The shots, though, were few and far between; it appeared as if the altered game plan was to concentrate on going the distance, and keeping wickets in hand.
A run rate of 3 per over after 15 was completely out of character, as was Tamim's personal stats, at that period, of 27/51. Into the final power play, the two batsmen looked to change gears - but that sudden change of intent proved, as it does so often, to be fatal.
Having failed to bring off his patented charges down the wicket, Tamim changed tack and looked to paddle a good length delivery to the leg side. He missed with the attempt and in the process, was dragged out of his crease; Brendan McCullum did brilliantly to complete a tough collection (he would have been unsighted for part of the time by the batsman's unpredicted movement), then whip off the bails before the batsman could spin around and touch base (29/54; 55/1).
You had to wonder if Bangladesh fell between two stools, here: while it made sense to not blindly swing at everything, the track was providing the bowlers very little assistance; you had to figure that while Omar dropped anchor, Tamim could have been given license to maraud once he was set.
Having batted himself to a standstill, Omar then attempted to reverse tack following the exit of Iqbal. The batsman aimed a slash at an Oram delivery that was way too close for the shot; the extra bounce the tall Kiwi seamer gets forced the edge, McCullum held, and in the face of umpire Koertzen's uncertainty, Omar walked (22/51; 62/2).
Aftab Ahmed walked out into the breach, and for the first time, the Bangladesh innings looked to get a move on. The aggressive right hander cracked Vettori for four over midwicket, cracked Oram back down the track on the charge, pulled and managed to keep the shot out of reach of deep backward square. the intent was there, and just often enough, the execution as well.
At the halfway mark, the Bangladesh innings is neither here nor there. Having consciously eschewed the guerilla tactics that stunned India, Bangladesh doesn't have the momentum it needs at the top of the innings - and against the tight Kiwi field, the players haven't been able to work the singles that could compensate for the absence of big hits.
In the second half, the Kiwis merely need to keep going as they are; the onus is on Bangladesh to make thing - a whole lot of things - happen. It's a young team, without much experience in such situations - it should be interesting to see if they have the skill to make up for it.
The interesting thing is that this wicket, I suspect, will help spin and play a touch on the low side. So if Bangladesh can put some runs on the board, its array of left arm spinners could create some heartburn for the Kiwis on the chase - but that, right now, is a very big if.
5 overs: 14/0 @ 2.80 (Javed Omar 11/15; Tamim Iqbal 3/15)
10 overs: 27/0 @ 2.70 (Omar 12/29; Iqbal 11/31)
15 overs: 45/0 @ 3.00 (Omar 13/39; Iqbal 27/51)
20 overs: 64/2 @ 3.20 (Aftab Ahmed 7/15; Saqibul Hasan 2/6)
25 overs: 89/2 @ 3.60 (Aftab Ahmed 23/30; Saqibul Hasan 5/15)
At a time when newspapers in India are full of stories that India's senior batsmen, in the game against Bangladesh, wanted to bat first in order to get batting practice, Stephen Fleming and his New Zealanders served up an object lesson on how to approach any game in a tournament: aim to win, forget the by-products.
The Kiwis spent the first half of the innings bringing the Bangladesh cart to a standstill; in the second half, they systematically took the wheels off.
Aftab Ahmed looks good, every time he comes out to bat: nicely organized player at the crease, good off either foot and equally facile at hitting through the line or knocking them around into gaps for quick-run singles.
On the day, though, he was overburdened a tad - the opening partnership hadn't made a dent on the scoreboard, the overs were ticking by, the Kiwi part timers were managing to keep a tight rein on things, and the deadlock needed to be broken.
Aftab tried, by stepping out and lofting Scott Styris straight - good enough, as far as the concept went, but the ball was not coming on to the bat enough for the stroke to generate much movement through the hitting area; Aftab merely managed to hole out to long on, where Gillespie, himself on the injury list, was substituting for the injured Mason (27/39; 105/3; partnership 43 at 4.44)
The Kiwi fielding - as is true of all the top teams - functions in the role of a quality sixth bowler. Here, that factor struck in the 34th over, when skipper Habibul Bashar played a cut past backward point. The fielder there dived and could not cut the shot off, Bashar raced around for the first and then looked for a second.
Jacob Oram, having already done his bit with the ball (8-0-23-2), raced around from the deeper position, fielded and, in one fluid motion, rocketed in a return that crashed direct into the stumps, catching Bashar well short of his ground (9/21; 127/5).
A facet of Fleming's captaincy is that he never seems to miss a trick. Having taken out the top five, he brought his enforcer back - and Bond, per usual, did the job with two strikes in his very first over.
The first ball of the 36th was a beauty - scorching pace, on off and middle, straightening just enough to beat the attempted drive and crash into Saqibul Hasan's middle stump (25/41; 127/5).
Bond then spent four deliveries lining wicket keeper Mushfiqur Rahim up, repeatedly beating him outside off. And then came the clinical take-out: again, top pace, ball angling on to middle, squaring the batsman just enough and seaming away to slide past the bat and hit the top of off (0/5; 127/6).
Scott Styris then pitched in, with a ball close to off that Mohammad Ashraful tried to get cute with. The batsman tried to finesse it down to third man, but managed only to inner edge it onto his stumps (3/8; 129/7).
Having realized that all he had to do was bowl about two inches outside off, Styris kept at it. And Mashrafe Mortaza was the next to oblige, getting cute and managing only to chop the ball onto off stump (2/16; 140/8).
The two dismissals raise a question that has a wider application, even up to the Tendulkars of this world. Just what is with this business of trying to work a ball off the stump, to third man? Surely the one run you get that way can be got, with less risk, by simply pushing straight through the V?
Abdur Razzak didn't waste any time. He pushed at the first ball he got; he then teed off at the next, a full ball outside off that he drove high in the air and down the throat of Gillespie at a slightly deep mid off (0/2; 140/9).
Mohammad Rafique managed a big hit, swinging Styris over deep midwicket in a belated show of defiance; he followed that up by going up on his toes and carving a Bond bouncer one bounce over the third man fence. That shot made Bond wince - he was 9-4-9-2 before that over, he ended with 10-4-15-2, and his expression after that six-run last over indicated he was mentally kicking himself.
Here's what you really have to love about Bond - a complete, total lack of histrionics. He runs in, he takes the wicket, he smiles briefly, and off he goes to the top of his mark, where other bowlers with less in the tank make an entire feature film out of a wicket.
Mohammad Rafique showed considerable skill and Syed Rasel, considerable stickiness, while putting together a last wicket partnership that added 33 useful runs, at 6 rpo what is more, as if to underline the folloy of the earlier mode of play.
Bangladesh ended up with 174 all out off 48.3 overs, with Oram cleaning up Rasel to end the innings.
On balance Bangladesh, having failed the other day in trying to hit everything, failed today by trying to hit nothing. Put it down to inexperience - sooner or later, the teens and twenty-somethings that populate the lineup will discover the via media; and they do have time, and youth, on their side.
It will take some bowling to defend this total, or pose any kind of problems to the Kiwis; it should be interesting though to see the Bangladeshis try.
30 overs: 109/3 @ 3.63 (Habibul Bashar 2/8; Saqibul Hasan 17/28)
35 overs: 127/4 @ 3.62 (Saqibul Hasan 25/40; Mohammad Ashraful 2/5)
40 overs: 131/7 @ 3.27 (Mahsrafe Mortaza 2/13; Mohammad Rafique 1/8)
45 overs: 159/9 @ 3.53 (Mhoammad Rafique 22/25; Syed Rasel 6/8)
New Zealand innings
Bangladesh in the field has a simple game plan - and sticks to it.
The put the ring of fielders in place, a few yards inside the circle; they race around and fling themselves about and make the singles difficult to take - and in doing that, they challenge the batsmen to take the more risky route of hitting over the top.
Stephen Fleming took that route and succeeded, early in his innings; he was helped by an uncharacteristically untidy first spell by Mortaza, who went for 27 in his first four.
At the other end, Peter Fulton was not as successful in piercing the field, nor in working singles. Though the Kiwi run rate was well above par, the pressure of not getting runs told on the batsman. In the tenth over, Rasel sent down a delivery that was fullish in length, angled across the right hander and going further away; Fulton teed off, but managed only to get the toe of the bat on it, and put it up for a simple take at mid on by Tamim Iqbal (15/30; 44/1).
Habibul Bashar brought on Abdur Razzaq as early as the 9th over, and the left arm spinner found turn, and good lines, to check the run rate. Fleming was opened up on a couple of occasions; against that, he picked the flight on one of those rare occasions when it was tossed u8p, and cracked it through mid on to find the fence.
Hamish Marshall had his moments, as when he crashed a cover drive off Mortaza when the seamer was brought in for a second spell. He also had his bad hair moments, escaping being run out early in his innings when Aftab Ahmed over-ran the ball at point with the batsman stranded a long way out, and again in the 19th over, when he tried to break free of Abdur Razzaq, cracked it in the air on the on and saw Tamim Iqbal just fail to hang on to a near-miraculous catch, while fully airborne.
In between, he hung in there, keeping his end up while his captain did the bulk of the work. Fleming looked increasingly good, patiently working the ball around and when opportunity afforded, putting the ball away in his favorite areas - square on the off, wide on the on and dead straight when the ball was in line.
By the halfway mark, with both batsmen looking fully set, the outcome of the match was no longer in doubt; the Kiwis will now look at finishing it off as efficiently as possible, while Bangladesh concentrates on using its three left arm spinners to try and slow down the romp towards the finish line.
Progression: 1-25 overs
5 overs: 26/0 @ 5.20 (Fulton 5/17; Fleming 18/13)
10 overs: 47/1 @ 4.70 (Fleming 28/29; Marshall 1/1)
15 overs: 63/1 @ 4.20 (Fleming 39/45; Marshall 6/15)
20 overs: 91/1 @ 4.55 (Fleming 55/65; Marshall 16/25)
25 overs: 126/1 @ 5.04 (Fleming 76/80; Marshall 30/40)
Overs 26 - 29.2
Having gotten to where they knew they couldn't lose, the Kiwis pressed down, hard, on the accelerator - none more so than captain Fleming, who in the 27th over twice shimmied down the track, to slog sweep Saqibul Hasan for huge sixes on the on side to successive balls.
More than the big hits, though, the often-risky singles the two ran upset the rhythm of the bowlers and fielders; the former tried to play with lines and ended up in error while the latter, in their haste to try and get the run out, began making mistakes.
It was - in common with all New Zealand games in this World Cup thus far - measured, clinical, almost inevitable; their play seems increasingly to focus on cutting out errors, and letting the outcome take care of itself.
The only real point of interest was whether Fleming, who has repeatedly cruised to good forties and fifties and then given it away in take dismissals, would go all the way through to his century. He did, with another slog sweep, this time off Saqibul Hasan, that went one bounce over the midwicket rope to reach three figures in 90 deliveries, with ten fours and three sixes. And about time, too - when Fleming acknowledged the applause, the Kiwis needed just five more to win.
Marshall aped his captain, going down on one knee to hoist the second ball of the 30th over high, wide and handsome over midwicket to seal the win and bring up his 50 (54 deliveries). The Kiwis won by nine wickets, with 20 overs and four balls to spare - as a measure of the difference between the two sides, that was as good as any.
It was a clean, uncomplicated win; Bangladesh really had nothing it could take away from this game, having been outclassed in all departments of the game. For the Kiwis, there are some interesting injury problems to solve, but till date, they have managed to absorb the hits without letting it impact on the way they play the game.
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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