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Ireland trounce Bangladesh
Prem Panicker | April 16, 2007 02:33 IST
They threw the gates open, at the Kensington Oval, an hour into today's game between Ireland and Bangladesh - and the Bajans streamed in and had themselves a party.
The unexpected largesse, of course, owes to the fact that this was supposed to be Super Sunday - the day India played Pakistan in the World Cup. With both teams out of the Super Eights, those fans who had booked well ahead of time to be ringside gave the game a miss - and, judging by the music, the dancing, the party atmosphere at the ground that came across clearly even through the narrow prism of the television cameras, they were not missed.
Some Indian fans did turn up, to root for Ireland. As the Irish marched to an unlikely win against the slayers of India and South Africa, they were egged on by shouts of Ganpathi Bappa Moriya. Trent Johnston and his men likely did not understand the words, but must have appreciated the full-throated intent. Ironically, the Pakistan fans who turned up to cheer on Bangladesh found 'their' team on the losing end, again.
Going into the game, Bangladesh was favored to win, but it was Ireland that got all its ducks in a perfect row. Johnston opted for first strike on winning the toss - a bold move, considering that any dangerous life in the track was always going to be in the first hour.
The plan, as it unfolded, was simple: deny the Bangladeshi new ball bowlers (the fielding side was a touch hampered by the absence through injury of the steady Syed Rasel, with Shahadat Hossain taking his place in the eleven), keep wickets in hand, and try for the big push right at the end.
Two partnerships pretty much underlined how well the Irish stuck to this plan. William Porterfield (85/136) and Jeremy Bray (31/70) put together a first wicket partnership of 91 in 25.3 overs. The two may have taken 153 legitimate deliveries to get there, but they did manage to deny Bangladesh a breakthrough, and forced Habibul Bashar to go increasingly defensive in the second half of the innings.
The other partnership was between Kevin O'Brien (48/44) and Trent Johnston (30/23), which produced 48 runs in 34 key deliveries between overs 42 and 48. During this association, the two pushed Bangladesh to the limit, with innovative hitting and electric-heeled running; by the time they were done, Ireland was headed for the sort of score that put them in the safety zone (Ireland ended with 243 - a terrific effort, considering that only Australia has managed to hunt down more than 240 in a World Cup that has seen low-scoring second innings).
The Irish had a plan and showed considerable application in sticking to it, but it needs saying that Bangladesh contributed considerably to its own misfortunes, with an unexpectedly ragged display in the field.
At least two wickets should have gone in the first 10 overs but for a strange error on the part of the slips. When the bowler was at the top of his run up, their positioning with respect to the keeper was perfect - but wicket-keeper Mushfiqur Rahim has a habit of walking forward four, five steps as the bowler begins his run up, with the result that the slips, bizarrely, stood several paces behind the keeper, and way too deep for edges, especially off Mortaza, to get to them.
Through the innings, the Bangladeshi fielders missed at the least a half dozen run out chances - and then there were the catches. Mohammad Rafique muffed a simple return chance off Porterfield; Hossain fluffed one off Eoin Morgan; Abdur Razzak dropped Kevin O'Brien at deep midwicket.
It was almost as if Bangladesh had caught the sub-continental disease of not taking low-rated opposition seriously enough; of failing to switch on for such games.
To hunt down 244 on a track that gets lower and slower as the game progresses was never going to be easy. The back room staff appeared to have figured out that run-making would be easier against the harder ball than in the second half of the innings - thus, the batting order was revised and free stroking batsmen such as Aftab Ahmed, Saqibul Hasan and Mohammad Ashraful came higher up the order.
The plan was fine; the execution, not so. Nafees and Ahmed gifted their wickets away to deliveries that did not deserve them - Nafees to an ill conceived hook that popped off the glove to the keeper; Ahmed throwing the bat at a wide delivery outside off from Andre Botha.
There was a brief moment of hope, when the tempestuous Tamim Iqbal and the 22-year-old veteran of two World Cups, Ashraful, got the Bajans dancing in the stands with a partnership of 45 runs in 44 deliveries that served up some exquisite batsmanship.
Tamim was his usual self, unfurling lovely drives through the V and then spoiling the effect with ill-judged charges down the track, bat swinging wildly. Ashraful, at the other end, was pure class - never more so than in the way he dismantled Botha in the space of two overs.
His first scoring shot was an example of finesse - he stayed back, watched a ball go past him, then guided it wide of the sole slip to third man. Botha banged one down, and Ashraful again stayed back, watched, then upper cut over the keeper for another four. In Botha's next over, the batsman changed mode, going from the cheeky to the classical with a superb front foot pull over square leg for six. He seemed to sense that the next ball would be full, to compensate - he glided forward, went on his knee, and played a textbook drive through the covers, holding his pose so the ecstatic fans in the stands could admire it, and him.
And then it all came unglued - Tamim, having played a lovely lofted straight drive, backed away to leg and Johnston, spotting the move, fired in a yorker to clean him up - that the wicket fell off the last ball of the power plays was by way of added bonus for the Irish.
Deprived of his partner, frustrated by his skipper Habibul Bashar, who refused to run even singles he could have completed on one leg, Ashraful took a swipe at a short one from Boyd Rankin, hitting it right off the middle but managing only to pick out fine leg - and that pretty much was the end of the Bangladesh resistance.
The Irish bowled tight, fielded brilliantly, and caught anything even remotely catchable; Johnston led with the verve of a veteran, getting his bowling changes and field positions spot on, applying pressure and defending in perfect sync to the events on the field.
The Irish deserved the win - from the opening moments till the very end, they played as a unit, backing each other up; the win gives them bragging rights (You beat India and South Africa? Cool, we beat Pakistan and we beat you, so who's your daddy now?), and helps them avoid the ignominy of having zero points against their name when the Super Eights comes to an end.
Having drawn level on points, Ireland can in fact pip Bangladesh in the race for the seventh and eighth positions -- and enjoy the enhanced monetary rewards that come with ranking seven.
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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