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 “An upset?

Come on, you must be out of your mind if you even think such.

Bangladesh are one of the big boys of world cricket right now.

They not only win matches but have mastered the art of handling pressure better than others”.  

After an outstanding opening ceremony at Barcelona during the FIFA World Cup 1982, the defending champions Argentina faced a young Belgium team, who were featuring in the greatest show on earth since 1970. Obviously, they were the underdogs and against a team, which was boosted by a young talent named Diego Maradona, Belgium’s chances were less. But after 90 minutes, Argentina were lost in the Belgian forest.

Diego Maradona and Argentina were gripped by an unknown fear in the opening match of World Cup. In that similar event, a brilliant French unit and European Champions West Germany digested shock defeats in their respective opening matches.

Even the hot favourites Brazil found the going tough against the Soviet Union in their first match. The Brazilians were gripped by nerves four years later in Mexico as well, where, luckily the escaped the Spanish fear. Meanwhile, in the same tournament, Italy were halted by Bulgaria in the opening match and in Italia 90, Omam Biyik would throw the biggest bombshell ever by defeating the defending champions Argentina at San Siro.

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The story is no different in cricket as well. During the World Cup 1987, India, the defending champions, failed to pass the test of nerves against the underdogs Australia. While in the next edition, Australia, the hot favourites at their own backyard failed to escape the New Zealand scare in the opening match. While the champions of that edition in Australia and New Zealand, Pakistan were crushed by West Indies.

Also read: The same old story for South Africa

Any opening match of a World Cup is all about nerves and many better teams fail to handle the pressure and thus succumb. And in case of Bangladesh, their story in the opening matches in mega-events have not been chummy. The memories of that defeat against Canada in 2003 still hurts and whenever, Bangladesh take the field in the opening match of a World Cup, it seems, the result might not be according to expectations.

As history suggests, they have won just once since 1999 in their opening encounter.

But it’s changing times in Bangladesh cricket.

Kia Oval was the venue for Bangladesh’s opening encounter against one of the favourites of tournament – South Africa. Just a few days ago at the same venue, the Proteas were found wanting against the hosts, England. It was expected that the South Africans would bounce back in style against Bangladesh, who don’t have a very encouraging track record in their opening matches. Moreover, none of the experts, leaving few, expected enough from Bangladesh. South Africa were the favourites of majority.

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Bangladesh entered the field with a lot of hype – created by the home supporters – behind them and at the Oval, the atmosphere was more like the Sher-e-Bangla stadium. The pressure was on Bangladesh more than South Africa. The crowd pressure, high expectations and poor history in opening matches – all revisited in the minds of Bangladesh fans.

But at the end of the day, it was the Bangladeshi flag which was flying proudly in London. South Africa would digest their second defeat of this ICC Cricket World Cup, while Bangladesh would bag their second victory in an opening encounter of World Cup.

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Overall, it was a very tensed and exciting match. Since the World Cup kicked off, the matches had been heavily one-sided. This World Cup required a huge boost and it has been Bangladesh, who gave this event the much needed spice.

Soumya Sarkar’s gung-ho-batting hinted about a dam-care-attitude while the composure of Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim conveyed the message, the Tigers would not crumble under pressure. They batted neatly and posted a total of 330 – quite an astonishing achievement by a team, who were shot out for 78 runs when they last met South Africa in a World Cup match.

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On a good batting track, Bangladesh would require a disciplined bowling and fielding display to halt South Africa and they did it better than anyone could even think of.

Bangladesh bowling has been one of their weak links in limited-over formats and it neither has it any express bowlers nor any champion spinners apart from Shakib. They have their limitations and they just bowled within that – no adventure, no out-of-the-box-idea and no ultra-heroism. They just stuck to the plan of bowling more dot balls and pile on the pressure – it worked.

Mashrafe Bin Mortaza had been brilliant as a captain on the field, who rotated his options smartly and his men delivered accordingly. Mustafizur Rahman and Saifuddin were spot-on with their length, while the spinners – Shakib, Mosaddek Hossain, and Mehidy Hasan Miraz varied the length and flight consistently to outsmart South African batters.

An upset?

Come on, you must be out of your mind if you even think such.

Bangladesh are one of the big boys of world cricket right now.

They not only win matches, but have mastered the art of handling pressure better than others.

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