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Bangladesh slay another giant
Prem Panicker | April 07, 2007 21:06 IST
Last Updated: April 08, 2007 02:50 IST
Bangladesh pulled off another upset victory when they beat No 1 one-day international team South Africa by 67 runs in the Super Eight match in Guyana on Saturday.
Mohammed Ashraful led the way with a sparkling half-century as Bangladesh scored a healthy 251 for eight. In the end, it proved too much for South Africa, who never came out of the spin web wove by the Bangladeshi bowlers, as they were dismissed for 184 in 48.4 overs.
The Bangladesh spin trio-- Abdul Razzak, Mohammed Rafique and Saqibul Hasan-- shared six wickets between them to have South Africa in tangles. Their fielding then tied up the loose ends to complete a comprehensive victory over the Africans and restate their credentials in international cricket.
It's more of a batting track, than a bowler's dream, at the Providence Stadium in Guyana-- yet Graeme Smith opted to insert, on winning the toss.
Behind that decision probably lies the one vulnerable aspect of South Africa's Cup campaign at this point-- of the major contenders, South Africa is the only one with a negative run rate (the others are Ireland, Bangladesh and the West Indies, while England, Australia, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand all have positive run rates).
The Proteas added Andre Nel to the lineup in place of Andrew Hall-- again, a clear signal of the intent to try and blast Bangladesh out early and cheap, then chase down the target in the least number of overs possible.
Interesting enough as a strategy-- but thus far, it is the Bangladesh counter that is working. In the Super Eights, the Bangladeshis have veered between extremes: berserk belligerence one day, inexplicable timidity the next.
Finally, it seems to have gotten the balance nearly right: Tamim Iqbal and Javed Omar began cautiously enough, but even in the early stages, looked to work the ball around, picked up quick singles, and ensured there was some momentum.
Iqbal in particular struck the right note: he didn't cut out the shots that are typical of his play, but was more selective in when he would hit and when he would nudge the ball around. He was let off twice: once by Justin Kemp at second slip off a very hard slash, the second by Mark Boucher, again off a powerful slash the keeper would have needed a fishing net to rein in. Against that, the teenaged southpaw produced some crackling shots, none more attractive than a confident waft over extra cover off only the second ball Charl Langeveldt bowled today.
It took the Proteas 13.4 overs to finally break through: Andre Nel bowled one short and outside off, Omar threw everything he had at it, mishit the ball in his eagerness, and picked Graeme Smith out at gully (17/41; 42/1).
Habibul Bashar promoted himself up the order, to join Iqbal; the two batsmen had an extended pow-wow before getting down to business, and Iqbal's response was an exquisite straight drive off Langeveldt not long thereafter.
Bashar, however, failed to justify the self-promotion: after prodding around, being beaten too often for comfort around off, and generally looking anything but the part of a number three, he squared up to a length ball from Andre Nel, pushed tamely at it, and managed only to pat it back, for the tall Proteas quick to break stride, reach to his right, and make a tough return catch look ridiculously easy (5/14; 59/2).
Tamim Iqbal was impressive in the way he reined in his more berserker instincts-- but just when it seemed as if he had learnt to pace himself, those same instincts let him down. In the 20th over, he spotted an Andre Nel bouncer late, but still got enough wood on the belated hook to get it over Boucher's head to the boundary. To the very next ball, he essayed one of his wild charges down the wicket, bat flailing wildly, and managed only to edge through to Boucher (38/59; 69/3).
Mohammad Ashraful, coming ahead of Aftab Ahmed, and Saqibul Hassan were looking fairly settled-- but then, in came Kallis and in his first over, out went Hassan. Again, the batsman was the prime culprit in his dismissal: the ball was short, outside off and Hasan tried to get on top of the bounce and flash; all he did manage was to hit it straight to Graeme Smith at backward point (9/27; 84/4).
At the halfway stage, Bangladesh has pretty much squandered the advantage of a controlled start, and now looks in danger of playing right into the Proteas' hands, and getting bowled out inside the 50 over mark.
Bangladesh progression: Overs 1-25
5 overs: 13/0 at 2.60 (Tamim Iqbal 9/17; Javed Omar 2/13)
10 overs: 36/0 at 3.60 (Tamim 19/30; Omar 14/30)
15 overs: 47/1 at 3.13 (Tamim 27/44; Habibul Bashar 0/5)
20 overs: 73/3 at 3.65 (Mohammad Ashraful 4/2; Saqibul Hasan 1/13)
25 overs: 92/4 at 3.68 (Ashraful 5/8; Aftab Ahmed 3/6)
Interesting partnerships characterized the second half of the Bangladesh innings, none more so than the 76-run stand, at a healthy 5.4, between Aftab Ahmed and Mohammad Ashraful, free-scoring batsmen both.
Ashraful is the more recognized one, his career thus far being an exasperating mix of brilliant knocks and stumbles. Aftab Ahmed is among the emerging stars-- confident, with a good eye and technique, and shots all around the wicket.
Ashraful played second fiddle, and Aftab kicked the innings into gear with some flowing shots and deft nudges. The two showed some patience in waiting for the right ball, the right opportunity, for strokeplay-- and when such opportunities came along, were ruthless at seizing them.
Smith served up one such chance when, in the 36th over, he opted to give Justin Kemp a bowl. Aftab and Ashraful ran a few singles to start things off; when Kempt went full and onto the leg stump to try and counter the tip and run, Aftab slid a foot out and inside the line, changed the angle of the delivery a trifle, and hoisted it easily over the backward square leg boundary. To the next ball, he changed tack slightly-- this time, the foot came straight down the pitch, the bat went inside the line, and the ball landed smack on a plastic chair some 12 rows deep in the stands behind midwicket.
The diminutive batsman appeared to have got the wind in his sails-- but again, as with some of the players who had gone before, his exuberance proved his undoing. Facing Andre Nel, Aftab went onto the front foot, shimmying just a touch to make room, and drove easily over cover.
It seemed as if the batsman had picked his spot-- from his reaction after the dismissal, he apparently hadn't noticed that Andre Nel had been moved a lot squarer at sweeper cover. The tall quick ran in, went low, and held just as the ball was going to ground (35/43; 160/5)-- a rather unnecessary end to a sweet innings.
This World Cup has exemplified the theory that for the big sides, fielding is as good as a sixth, attacking bowler. In this game, it was Justin Kemp's turn to produce the wicket from the field when, in the 43rd over, Ashraful drove Nel fluently to the left of mid off.
Ashraful called and ran, Rahim initially responded but then stood rooted, watching as Kemp dived headlong, stopped the ball with his palm, reeled it in and got to his feet. By then it was all too late-- and Rahim, realizing that Ashraful and he were in danger of being caught at the same end, sacrificed his wicket (6/13; 179/6).
Ashraful decided it was time to accelerate-- and suddenly, that prodigious talent was in full view. To a delivery from Ntini that was on length, he eased onto the front foot and drove � up, over the bowler's head, and to the straight fence. To the next ball, he walked across his stumps, took a ball from outside off, and ramped it over the head of short fine leg for yet another four. Ntini a couple of balls later went outside off-- and Ashraful promptly slammed him square, to announce that the fun and games had officially begun.
It was the kind of batting he is known for, and on the day, he turned it on. He played the same ramp shot against Nel in the next over, but this time picked the fielder. Nel, irritated-- and unsure whether he would try the shot again-- went to the leg stump line, and was promptly flicked for four; three deliveries earlier, Mashrafe Mortaza had cracked the bowler straight back down the line for a thumping four.
At the other end Mashrafe Mortaza, a bowler who loves the long handle, took to the situation and the bowling. In the 46th over, Ntini was hoisted back over the bowler's head, and over the sightscreen; the next ball was clubbed through midwicket.
From there on, the floodgates were thrown fully open. Ashraful went down on one knee and with a shot of the purest class, square drove Langeveldt. Having played a classical shot-- one of the most difficult in the book, since this was off yorker length-- he then reversed tack, went over to off and again, paddled a ball from outside off past short fine leg for four more, to bring up the 50 of the partnership at a rollicking 11.17 rpo.
In the 48th, Andre Nel produced a perfect yorker, going under Mortaza's attempt to squeeze it through point and making a mess of the stumps. The tall Bangladeshi seam bowler had done his bit, though, with a nice cameo of 25/16 (233/7), helping Ashraful time the late charge to perfection in the 54 run partnership off just 31 deliveries.
Ashraful just kept going-- there was a beautiful inside out drive on the rise over cover, off Langeveldt in the 49th, that reprised Tendulkar of late 1990s vintage.
Nel, marking his comeback after being benched for Andrew Hall, made his point with a four wicket haul. Shaun Pollock didn't get among the wickets, but will take some comfort from the fact that the Bangladeshi batsmen didn't go after him. Langeveldt, who has been among the wickets for the Proteas in earlier outings, proved expensive-- and went wicketless, with Ashraful taking a special liking to his bowling, cracking him for 28 off 21 deliveries.
The youngster's brilliance came to an end in the final over, when he again went to ramp the ball to the fine leg fence. Smith had pushed the fielder right back, and Ashraful picked him out with the shot to give Andre Nel a five-for, and cause for unbridled celebrations (87/83; 248/7).
It was a perfectly paced innings; when Aftab was doing his number, Ashraful was ambling along with a strike rate in the early 60s, as he rounded into the straight, he eased off the blocks and produced a sequence of shots that mixed classical brilliance with cheeky impudence.
Bangladesh did outstandingly well to bat through the allotted overs, and get 251/8 on the board, with 80 runs coming off the last 10 for the loss of 3 wickets-- the kind of target that can be a tripwire for the best teams.
Another problem for the Proteas is Herschelle Gibbs, who had to go off at the halfway mark with a calf strain serious enough to keep him off the field, and off the batting crease "unless he has to bat".
And just to complete a miserable day for Graeme Smith in the field, South Africa is likely to miss out on some serious money-- their over rate was way below par.
And to top it all off, South Africa now has a sizeable total to chase-- against an array of left arm spinners who, when they take the pace off and bowl wicket to wicket, are damnably difficult to get away.
Bangladesh progression: Overs 26-50
30 overs: 117/4 at 3.90 (Ashraful 20/30; Aftab 11/14)
35 overs: 139/4 at 3.97 (Ashraful 32/45; Aftab 17/29)
40 overs: 171/5 at 4.27 (Ashraful 43/56; Mushfiqur Rahim 2/5)
45 overs: 208/6 at 4.62 (Ashraful 62/68; Mashrafe Moraza (13/10)
South Africa innings
South Africa, which started the day looking for an easy win and a chance to do its run rate a bit of alright, unexpectedly found a fight on its hands-- and in the early part of the chase, showed that for all its new found status as the world's number one ODI team, it remains prone to nervous twitches.
Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers began tentatively, with neither able to reproduce the careless rapture of their batting against Australia earlier in the tournament.
A 250-chase should be doable for a team that bats as deep as the Proteas, but with the runs not coming freely thanks to some tight bowling and absolutely brilliant fielding, pressure began to tell on the openers-- and in the sixth over, that pressure manifested in Smith trying to manufacture a shot that led to his fall.
Against Syed Rasel, Smith backed a long way away from his stumps, trying to ram it down to third man. The ball was bang on off stump, Smith missed, the ball hit (12/24; 18/1).
Jacques Kallis started this tournament batting like he was trying to save a Test. Someone must have lit fires under the big all-rounder, for of late he has been getting off the blocks like a scalded cat. Here, his first two shots were streaky edges to third man; he was saved on both occasions by the fact that Habibul Bashar had opted to place his close catchers in front of the stumps, leaving the slips empty.
Once he got his eye in, though, Kallis began batting with characteristic fluency, especially on the booming drives through the covers. De Villiers wasn't making much headway at the other end, but it didn't really matter-- Kallis was getting the runs, and his partner merely needed to get his end going.
In the 16th over, Rasel struck again-- or rather, Kallis gave it away. The ball was on good length, on off and middle and going away on the angle; Kallis went for the heave, failed to get hold of it, and popped a dolly to Tamim Iqbal at mid on (32/36; 63/2).
In the very next over, Bangladesh struck again. Abdur Razzak is down on the books as a left arm spinner; typically, he is the first of the troika to get a bowl. One reason for that could be that he bowls his deliveries at some pace, and on a very full length-- so much so, that the odd ball actually tends to 'swing' in the air.
All of that, plus the fact that he varies his line well and gets the ball to turn, makes him a touch proposition to get away. De Villiers managed two runs off 11 balls faced, and you could almost see the frustration build. Razzaq built on it, bowling wicket to wicket; finally, after four dot balls in the 17th, the batsman stepped away, looking to cut-- the ball was on middle, straightening; it beat the cut and crashed into the stumps (15/39; 64/3).
There followed a bizarre period of play, as Ashwell Prince and Justin Kemp struggled to buy a run. The experienced Mohammad Rafique came on at the other end, and followed up Razzak's wicket maiden with a maiden of his own. A risky single finally got Kemp off the mark after 9 deliveries; Prince, at the other end, was struggling to make headway against accurate spin bowling.
Prince finally pushed one off the edge out on the on side; Aftab raced diagonally from midwicket, intercepted the ball, and flashed the throw to the bowler to catch Prince short of his crease (1/7; 67/4). That ended the power plays-- and South Africa had managed just five runs, for the loss of three wickets, between overs 16-20-- a totally astonishing period of play.
By the halfway stage, another aspect of Smith's miscalculation in bowling first was coming to the fore: the wicket was beginning to play slower and lower; the ball wasn't coming on, and with Bangladesh putting its fielders well inside the ring, neither Kemp nor Boucher were able to get the ball away, either for singles or over the infield.
Rafique and Razzak formed a bowling partnership that made life extremely difficult for the Proteas batsmen. Neither tried to spin the ball much, focusing instead on keeping a tight wicket to wicket line and forcing the batsmen to do all the heavy lifting.
The ten overs from 15-25 have produced just 15 runs for the loss of three wickets, and at the halfway stage, Bangladesh has the clear upper hand. To make matters more interesting, there is the possibility of rain � and SA is, currently, well behind the Duckworth-Lewis par score.
South Africa Progression: Overs 1-25
5 overs: 18/0 at 3.60 (Smith 12/20; AB de Villiers 5/10)
10 overs: 39/1 at 3.90 (de Villiers 3.90; Jacques Kallis 13/13)
15 overs: 62/1 at 4.13 (de Villiers 14/32; Kallis 32/34)
20 overs: 67/4 at 3.35 (Kemp 2/14; Boucher 0/1)
25 overs: 77/4 at 3.08 (Kemp 5/26; Boucher 4/18)
Mark Boucher is a stroke player-- with a world record in this Cup, for good measure. To be forced to use his bat like a shovel, digging the ball out of the pitch, was not to his liking and after 23 deliveries that fetched him a mere six, he charged down the wicket, caught hold of Saqibul Hasan, and powered him high over the extra cover boundary to double his tally of runs.
And then, to the very next ball, he charged again. Saqibul held that one back-- which almost reduced the ball to a standstill, since it wasn't coming on anyway-- and Boucher, looking for another big hit, mistimed, and managed only to scoop it uip to Syed Rasel at long off (12/26; 87/6).
Justin Kemp's plight was if anything worse: in 28 deliveries, he had managed just 7, most of them through desperately scrambled singles. Having crossed while the Boucher hit was in the air, Kemp drove airily at the very next ball, flat and slow on middle and leg, and managed only to hit it back down the track for the bowler to move across to his right and hold, avoiding a collision with Herschelle Gibbs while he was about it (7/29; 87/6).
Shaun Pollock survived the hat-trick ball; at the other end, Gibbs was out there with a dodgy calf muscle, and a runner. The two initially concentrated on nudging and nurdling singles, while the ask rate climbed into the 8+ zone. In the 33rd over Gibbs, gammy leg and all, came down the track, picked Saqibul up from around off and middle, and deposited him just over the boundary at long on to signal that he was ready to try and break free.
In the very next over, South Africa nearly shot itself in the foot, with a horrible mixup between wickets that saw Pollock and Prince meet mid pitch, then run to the same end, realize what was going on, start running together to the other end before finally sorting themselves out � while the throw from point narrowly missed the stumps and went over to the midwicket sweeper for tidying up.
Pollock and Gibbs, without really pushing pedal to the floor, began looking more proactively for runs; they managed 31 runs in the session between 31-35. And yet, it was nowhere close to enough: the asking rate was still 8.20, the run rate was a mere 3.68, and the Proteas were beginning to run out of overs.
With the boundaries remaining elusive, the two had to resort to increasingly desperate running � and the one thing the Bangladeshis do even when the other two elements of the game are not clicking is field. Pollock drove to mid off and took off; Tamim Iqbal raced in, attacking the ball, picking up and in the same motion, rocketing a throw that hit the stumps direct to find Pollock half a foot outside his crease-- the second run out for Bangladesh in the game, and testament to the efficacy of young legs and a well-drilled fielding side (17/23; 132/7).
Bashar brought back his most experienced bowler, and Mohammed Rafique struck immediately-- a well flighted top spinner that was just too good for Andre Nel; the ball hurried into the batsman's attempted push, and all Nel could do was pat it tamely back to the bowler (1/5; 137/8).
With South Africa needing 111 runs off the last 10 overs, Bangladesh-- increasingly egged on by a bunch of school children who may not have sussed out that an upset could possibly put their own home team back in the frame, but had the heart to cheer for the underdogs -- had the simplest of games to play: shut it down, and keep Gibbs away from the strike as much as possible.
Bashar brought the field in tight and Rafique, in particular, bowled absolutely magnificently-- all that experience came into play as the bowler varied his flight, his loop, his lines and lengths and prevented Gibbs from getting a handle on what he was doing with any particular ball. He ended with 10-2-22-1, and when he got done with the day's work in the 42nd over, the ask had been pushed to 12.87-- 103, from 48.
For the Proteas, too, there was only one game left-- to try and bat the full 50, to minimize the damage the inevitable defeat will do to their already negative run rate. Any outside run on the target was given up on once Pollock got out, leaving Gibbs alone with the tail.
Even batting in defensive mindset, the Proteas stumbled. Razzaq fired in a quick, straight, full ball and Langeveldt pushed the wrong line, took the ball on his back pad in front of middle, and had to go (9/32; 162/9).
Gibbs got to a well compiled 50 by clouting a Mortaza full toss high into the stands over wide long on; the bowler, who has been struggling with some sort of physical problem throughout the innings, went for 14 in the 48th and that was the most expensive over of the entire innings. In fact, it is a tribute to how well the Bangladesh bowlers did their stuff, that there was only one other over that yielded over 10 runs-- 11, in the 33rd.
Razzaq, in the 49th over, torpedoed the Proteas hope of batting through the 50 overs, when he tossed one up and got Ntini driving with bat well away from body; the turning ball sliced off the edge and Mortaza at cover, running back, held well to seal the win by a thumping 67-run margin. Gibbs remained unbeaten on 56/59, compiled on one and a half legs, and a prayer.
Bangladesh, with this win, lived up to a growing reputation as dangerous floaters. To their credit, despite being mauled in previous games in the Super Eights, they had courage to spare to go up against the top ranked team in the world, and outpoint them in all departments of the game.
South Africa progression: 26-50 overs
30 overs: 98/5 at 3.26 (Gibbs 5/11; Pollock 6/8); Required Rate 7.70
35 overs: 129/6 at 3.68 (Gibbs 26/29; Pollock 16/20); Required Rate 8.20
40 overs: 141/8 at 3.52 (Gibbs 35/39; Langeveldt 1/12); Required Rate 11.10
45 overs: 156/8 at 3.46 (Gibbs 45/53; Langeveldt 6/28); Required Rate 19.20
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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