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The West Indies finally returned to winning ways after four straight defeats when they beat Bangladesh by 99 runs in a Super Eights match at the World Cup on Thursday.
Brian Lara's side recovered from the loss of two early wickets to post 230 for five -- thanks to an unbeaten 91 by Ramnaresh Sarwan -- and then bowled out Bangladesh for 131 in the 44th over.
Both teams were out of the reckoning for a berth in the semi-finals.West Indies innings
What were the West Indies batsmen thinking?
On second thoughts, reframe that question: Were the West Indies batsmen thinking?
Put in to bat, at the Kensington Oval in Barbados after Habibul Bashar won the toss, the home team treated spectators who (at least in the case of some, anticipating an India-Windies clash) had turned out in their numbers to the sort of painful crawl that would disgrace even a modern-day Test.
Credit where due, Mashrafe Mortaza and Syed Rasel - the latter back in harness after injury - bowled superbly, using swing and seam (and in the case of the former, some bounce as well); they were backed by a fielding unit that, after suffering the yips against Ireland, appeared to have slipped back into top gear.
But all of that does not explain a crawl that saw four maidens, and five other overs that only produced one run apiece, inside the first 15 overs; a crawl that flattered Mortaza with first-spell figures of 7-2-13-1 and Rasel with 7-2-11-1.
The conditions don't explain this, the admittedly good bowling and fielding doesn't explain it - nothing does. It would have been understandable had the West Indies, with nothing further to lose other than the few remnants of pride, gone ballistic with the bat, taking on a bowling attack overly reliant on its three left arm spinners on a track that was by no stretch of the imagination a raging turner. The Windies, though, went the other way, scratching, prodding and poking around like rabbits in the headlights.
It was a sorry sight - sorry even by the depths the West Indies has plumbed in this tournament. You watched, and you wondered what legendary past players such as Gordon Greenidge, seated in a stand named for Sir Garfield Sobers, made of it all.
The West Indies lost its first wicket in the third over, when Mortaza bowled one on middle and off and on the fuller length; Dwayne Smith, upped to open, attempted in a vague fashion to work it onto the on side, but only managed to play all around it and watch as it crashed into off stump (5/12; 8/1).
Chris Gayle, man of the tournament in the Champions' Trophy and billed as likely to be one of the most influential batsmen in this World Cup, continued a horrendous run that has seen him painfully scratch his way to 149 off eight innings, at an average of 18.62 and an uncharacteristic strike rate of 69.62.
Here, he hung around for the space of 11 deliveries, never either forward or back, his bat hanging vaguely around his hip like an appendage he didn't quite know what to do with. Rasel put him out of his misery with a delivery that landed on length on line of off and straightened to beat the tentative prod of bat and thud into pad in front of off (1/11; 8/2).
Marlon Samuels had a couple of good moments, but never really looked like breaking free during a 66-ball vigil that presided over an almost static run rate. A loose drive outside off stump at a flighted delivery from Saqibul Hasan, that turned away late, got the edge through to Mushfiqur Rahim (31/66; 55/3).
The West Indies innings registered its 100 in the 33rd over. And even that owed to captain-in-waiting Ramnaresh Sarwan, who showed signs of some urgency on his arrival at the crease.
At the other end, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul was - what is a polite way of putting this? - disgracing himself. It was almost as if he had taken a vow not to take a run if he could possibly avoid it - a complete, inexplicable abdication of responsibility by one of the seniormost players in the side.
He crawled to his 50 in the 37th over - and in the very next, had a wild slog at Aftab Ahmed, missing the line entirely to be bowled off stump (50/85; 136/4). Having used up all that time at the crease (Chanderpaul walked in to bat at the fall of Smith, in the third over), the least he needed to do was bat through, looking gradually to up the tempo; his dismissal, coming at the time and fashion it did, rounded off an innings which, try as you will, you can find no positives to mention.
Actually, that is not true - at the very least, the dismissal of Chanderpaul put Lara and Sarwan together in the middle. The two looked to try and accelerate the run rate, hitting out and racing between wickets for pretty much everything.
The running in fact produced an odd incident, in the 44th over, when Sarwan flicked to midwicket; Saqibul Hasan raced in, picked up and, with just about one stump to aim at, hit. When the bails came off, Sarwan's bat hadn't made it across the line - but for some reason, umpire Rudi Koertzen decided not to refer the mild appeal to the third umpire, and Sarwan survived.
As if to rub it in, Lara then clubbed Rasel through midwicket, first for four, then more emphatically, for six as the seamer found bowling with the older ball at the death a task not to his liking.
The crowd, silent through the bulk of the innings, finally got vocal when Lara played one of those shots only he can - a sort of forehand whip at a better-than-good-length ball from Mortaza, that got the bat under the ball and, seemingly effortlessly, powered the ball over cover-point.
The delirium was short-lived - Lara came down the track to the first ball of the 47th, looking to smash Abdur Razzak over the infield, but managed only to smash it straight into Javed Omar's midriff at cover (33/27; 196/5).
With a judicious combination of chip and charge and the odd big hit, Sarwan all on his own kept the run-rate going; his attitude at the crease contrasting oddly, refreshingly, with that of the rest. The late charge produced 84 in the last 10 overs to take the West Indies to 230/5 after the allotted 50 overs, only the second time this Cup the Windies have topped 200.
The total just might be enough, with some decent bowling at the start, to put pressure on Bangladesh - but the wicket does not favor seam quite as much as it did at the start of the game, and a less than perfect start with the ball will let Bangladesh's array of young dashers have a go at a target that is not entirely out of reach.
Progression: Overs 1-50
10 overs: 17/2 @ 1.70 (Chanderpaul 7/19; Samuels 2/18)
20 overs: 47/2 @ 2.35 (Chanderpaul 12/37; Samuels 26/60)
30 overs: 83/3 @ 2.76 (Chanderpaul 30/64; Sarwan 13/27)
40 overs: 146/4 @ 3.65 (Sarwan 52/59; Lara 4/7)
50 overs: 230/5 @ 4.60 (Sarwan 91/90; Bravo 9/9)
The West Indies bowlers did what the batsmen could not - they came to the party, and they brought all their toys with them.
Brian Lara, who through this tournament has made some bizarre decisions in terms of who to bowl when and with what field, got all his ducks in order this time.
He opened with Corey Colleymore, and should have had a wicket with the third ball of the innings. Tamim Iqbal slashed at a delivery slanting across him; the ball went, literally, into Lara's gut at second slip.
The fielder shimmied to his right, looked to throw it up, and saw it drop out of the crook of his arms, where it had lodged, and onto the ground. Lara made a rueful moue, signaling he didn't think much of it; the umpire decided the fielder hadn't controlled the ball, and Iqbal got a life.
There is no doubting the kid's talent, but someone needs to take him across his lap and spank some sense into him. Outside of his systematic demolition of Zaheer Khan and the other Indian bowlers, Iqbal hasn't done much in this Cup - if you remove the 51 he got against India, the teenager has managed a grand total of 121 runs in 8 knocks including this one.
His innings here ended in a fashion that smacked of juvenile delinquency. Javed Omar pushed a delivery from Colleymore out on the off and set off for a run. Iqbal seemed quite happy till he saw Bravo running in from point; then, he inexplicably froze, thought about it, and tried to run back. Omar by then had almost crossed him, so Iqbal changed tack, and started for the end he should have been going to all along.
All Bravo had to do was walk across to the stumps and flick the bails off (7/20; 13/1).
Aftab Ahmed has looked quite the part at the crease, in successive outings - he has the shots, and he plays them well. But not for long - like Iqbal, the right hander has during the tournament been more of a promissory note than anything else. Colleymore, here, took him out with an absolute beauty - ball on length, just outside off, drawing the batsman forward and shaping away to take the outer edge through to the keeper (6/10; 21/2).
By now, Colleymore was bowling in the zone - immaculate seam, great length, late movement, and when he wanted it, disconcerting lift. Taylor, who took the new ball alongside him, and Powell, who came on at first change, did their part too, keeping the pressure up with good, aggressive bowling that made the Bangladeshis wilt.
Colleymore used lift to take out Saqibul Hasan, in the 11th over. He hit the line around off and made the ball kick; the batsman was looking to force square but was taken by surprise as the ball grew big on him, and managed only to top edge to the keeper (0/5; 23/3).
Lara dropped the second of three catches (though to be fair, the two latter ones were very tough) wen Powell found the thick outer edge of Javed Omar's bat in the 15th over. It was a touch difficult to figure out what the batsman thought he was doing - a charitable view is that he looked to guide the ball down to third man, but there were two slips in there. Anyway - Lara dived, got a hand to it, but couldn't hold on.
They took a single while Lara was scrabbling around for the ball. Mohammad Ashraful came on strike, Powell banged one down, the batsman looked to pull, and managed only to get the ball on the maker's label, to bob up for a simple catch at square leg (2/8; 34/4).
Having hung around painstakingly - even painfully - from the start of the innings without remotely suggesting he could translate time into runs, Omar fell - again, the extra bounce of Powell saw the batsman jabbing defensively at the ball around his off stump, for Gayle to hold at first slip (16/49; 35/5).
Habibul Bashar leads Bangladesh - which probably explains why he is in the batting lineup, in a tournament that has seen him manage 105 runs in 8 innings, at an average of 13.12 that is a good four ticks behind Mashrafe Mortaza, the first of the tailenders.
Powell had by now figured out that Bangladesh on the day was in no shape to play pace and bounce, so he combined both elements, in a delivery around off; Bashar held his bat up in front of his face protectively, the ball went off the edge and Bravo, at third slip, timed his jump to a nicety to hold (12/21; 52/6).
Mashrafe Mortaza, in free-flowing mode, and Mushfiqur Rahim, who seemed willing - and able - enough to resist the Windies quicks, then put together the first really decent partnership of the innings, with the former flicking, edging, cutting and slashing fours on the off.
Mortaza was in fact beginning to look like a batsman to the manner born, and had played the major role in a 50-plus run partnership, when Dwayne Bravo did for him with a lovely late inswinging yorker. The batsman misread the length, got trapped on top of the crease looking to push to leg, and ended up bowled (37/51; 110/7).
The very next over produced another wicket, with Gayle going round the wicket, and bowling one full, outside off turning in, that Mohammad Rafique took on his pads in front of the stumps. Strangely for such an experienced spinner, the batsman went back instead of forward, and was pinned (0/5; 111/8).
Things by then were going so smoothly for the Windies that when Abdur Razzak, in the 39th over, tried to get his bat out of the way of an angled delivery from Bravo and failed, Lara got the edge again into his midriff, at second slip - and this time held on (1/4; 114/9). On second thoughts, that jibe is a touch unfair, but he did muff a simple catch to start things off, then grassed a couple of tougher ones before finally managing to hold one, so.
Gayle finally ended Bangladesh's innings, with a flighted ball that went through Syed Rasel's heave, to have Bangladesh 131 all out, giving the Windies victory by 99 runs.
The West Indies take two points, and more importantly effect some repairs to injured pride, with this win. Bangladesh can point to its 7th place finish and argue that it has done much better than anyone expected - but against that, the team will go back knowing it could have done much better, against Ireland the other day and even against the West Indies today.
I haven't done the math yet, but Bangladesh hasn't done its net run rate any good with this effort; it will be interesting to see if the giant-killers of 2007 suffer the ignominy of being pushed to the bottom of the table.
Progression: 1-50 overs
10 overs: 22/2 @ 2.20 (Omar 5/28; Saqibul Hasan 0/4)
20 overs: 48/5 @ 2.40 (Mushfiqur Rahim 3/13; Habibul Bashar 8/17)
30 overs: 90/6 @ 3.00 (Mashrafe Mortaza 29/35; Mushfiqur Rahim 9/36)
40 overs: 121/9 @ 3.02 (Rahim 29/62; Syed Rasel 1/3).The Cup: Complete Coverage
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