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Rain forces Windies, Bangladesh to share points
Prem Panicker |
February 18, 2003 20:58 IST
The rain, it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But mostly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just's umbrella!
Ogden Nash wrote that -- as he wrote all else -- strictly in a spirit of fun.
The West Indies cricket team, today, is finding the democratic nature of rain distinctly unfunny.
With Bangladesh on 32/2 in 8.1, in response to the West Indies' total of 244/9 in the allotted 50 overs, it came pouring down in Benoni. 16.5 more overs would have meant a game -- but, as it happened, the rain never did let up in time for resumption, which meant the Windies had to share points with Bangladesh.
The result throws Group B wide open. Here's why:
By Sunday night, the group position was that Sri Lanka, with the full eight points from its two games till date, looked a sure bet to qualify -- it has to play South Africa, the West Indies, Kenya and Canada; wins over the two last-named teams will ensure qualification. (For now, let us not look at the possible scenarios in the next round, but keep the focus purely on qualifying).
New Zealand, with 8 points in three games, has to play three soft games: Kenya, Canada and Bangladesh; for obvious reasons, this means the Black Caps will qualify with a fair degree of comfort.
That leaves one place, to be fought for by two sides: South Africa, and the West Indies.
South Africa, before this morning, looked least likely to qualify. It had already lost to the Windies and the Kiwis and had earned 4 points from 3 games. It needs to play Sri Lanka, Canada and Bangladesh. Assume for now that it wins all three of those games and ends up with 16 points from 6 matches.
The West Indies had, going into today's game, 4 points from 2 matches, with Sri Lanka, Canada, Kenya and Bangladesh still to play. Assume it won the three games against the weaker sides and lost to Sri Lanka, it would end up with 16 points from 6 games -- identical with South Africa. If it won against Sri Lanka, it would go through, pipping South Africa.
So South Africa's qualification essentially depended on beating Sri Lanka and then hoping that the islanders would defeat the Windies.
Now, with points shared, the Windies are on 6 points from three matches. It still has to play Lanka, Canada and Kenya. Winning two of those three would put it on 14 points; losing to Lanka would keep it there, and allow South Africa to sneak ahead.
Confused? Welcome to the club -- this World Cup is being decided by rain, Duckworth, Lewis, tosses, politics, and pretty much everything else except the cricket, or so it occasionally feels like.
To get to the cricket, fans of India -- make that despondent fans of India, who still can't figure out how the team managed just 204 against Holland -- will love this.
At Willowmore Park, Benoni, on Tuesday, the in-form West Indies batting line-up was forced to struggle against Bangladesh, the team considered the Easybeats of international cricket.
Bangladesh backed its bowling when Khaled Mahsud invited Carl Hooper to bat first, after the former had won the toss. Not a surprising decision, given rain in the region the past two days and overcast skies in the morning.
The start appeared characteristic of the side that had been thumped by both Sri Lanka and Canada in the tournament thus far -- the first over of the innings, from Manjurul Islam, lasted eight balls and the second, from Talha Jubair, lasted 10.
Amidst the spate of no balls and wides, Manjurul provided some joy when he induced Chris Gayle to drive loosely outside off to be held by Sanwar Hussain at cover.
Khaled Mahmud then struck in fortuitous fashion, when off the third ball of his third over, and the tenth of the innings, Hinds edged to al-Shahriar at first slip. Nothing wrong with that, except that the bowler had gone a good foot over the line without the umpire bothering to call the no-ball.
Brian Lara, who began with a trademark back-foot cover drive and Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, who was edgy as always at the start of his innings, were forced to battle against some tight, restrictive bowling by the Bangladeshis.
Ehsanul Haque came on to bowl in the 18th over, and really upped the ante with a quality spell that had even the well-set Lara in some strife. A bit of gentle in-swing defeated a Chanderpaul push, in the 26th over, and trapped him in front -- a dismissal that owed as much to the batsman's tendency to use his crease to take a constitutional in, as to the impeccable line and length Haque maintained.
Lara, without being quite as assertive as he was against South Africa, still looked in supreme touch and appeared to have settled down to a long haul, when Haque struck the biggest blow yet. A gentle away-swinger outside line of off saw Lara flashing into an expansive drive, to be superbly held by Ashraful at a wide mid off.
When Ramnaresh Sarwan played a vague push at Khaled Mahmud in the 40th over to give the bowler a return catch, reducing the Windies to 158/5 in the 40th over, the specter of an upset loomed.
The return of Jubair, in the 45th over, saw a shift in the momentum. Ricardo Powell opened out in a display of big hitting that saw him blast three sixes and as many fours off the next three overs -- a display that meant the soft dismissal of Carl Hooper, who had played a solid supporting knock to Lara, did not even seem to matter. Powell's fourth six, a sliced drive over extra cover, brought up his 50 off 30 deliveries. An attempt to celebrate with another six, over midwicket, however saw him hole out off the last ball of the 48th over.
Powell had, however, by then done his bit, lifting the score to a far more comfortable 231/7. A rather undignified scramble at the end, involving slogging, soft dismissals, run outs et al finally saw the Windies manage 244/9 -- a score that, more than anything else, testified to a disciplined performance by Bangladesh with the ball and more particularly, in the field.
The way the Windies started their defense of this total, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened had it not rained – Chris Gayle and Carl Hooper (twice) gave a demonstration of slip-catching that bowlers (in this case, Vasbert Drakes) have nightmares about.
However, Drakes had his revenge when one finally stuck in the hands of Gayle, and Dillon – perhaps realizing he could not count on his fielders to help him – bowled Ehsanul with a delivery that seamed just enough off the seam to beat the push and rattle the stumps.
And then the rains came down, the calculators came out… and the jury is still out on whether South Africa can sneak back into a tournament it seemed well and truly out of after Stephen Fleming's heroics of Sunday.