“Though Bangladesh lost the game by 48-runs, they won a million hearts for they refused to be bullied into submission”
The 26th match of the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between Australia and Bangladesh had quite an interesting build-up. June 18, 2019, marked the 14th anniversary of what can be considered a watershed moment in the Asian nation’s cricketing history. It was the 2nd game of the NatWest Tri-series played in Cardiff, where an inspired Bangladesh pulled out arguably the biggest upset in the ODI history up to that point in time. Riding on a brilliant century from Mohammad Ashraful, Bangladesh cruised home to a 5-wicket thumping over the defending World Champions.
Australia were defending champs then, they are defending champs this time too but what was different this time around was the perception regarding the abilities of Bangladesh Cricket. Back then, they were nothing more than minnows when pitted against the Big Brothers of the cricketing world but their giant-killing acts in the ODI circuit, in general, and in the three following World Cups, in particular, had ensured that they had graduated to the degree of ‘Serious Challengers’ when they took the field against the Kangaroos in Trent Bridge on Thursday.
The first half of the match went somewhat on the expected lines until the start of the 41st over. Aaron Finch won the toss and gave his batters a day out in the run-mine of Trent Bridge. The batsmen heeded their skipper’s call and Australia had raced to 250/1 at the end of the 40th over. At this stage, Bangladeshi bowlers’ task was cut out. Restrict the Australian charge to a score of around 330 as their performance against the West Indian attack served as ample evidence of their chasing abilities. But a combined assault from David Warner, Usman Khawaja, and Glenn Maxwell sent the bowling effort into disarray as Bangladesh conceded a mammoth 131 runs in the last 10 overs to ‘set themselves’ a historic world cup target of 382 runs.
With only an outside chance of a victory at the halfway stage, Bangladeshi batsmen were left with only two choices – either offer a meek surrender and ruin all the hard work which had them graduated to the tag of ‘Challengers’ or fight till the last breath.
The way Bangladesh have played their game in the last few years can be gauged by their decision in such a situation. They chose to fight no matter what the end result was and it was this spirit which led Aaron Finch to walk up to a distraught Mushfiqur Rahim to offer him his congratulations for a magnificent century just after the final rites of the game had been done away with.
Soumya Sarkar, an unlikely hero with the ball earlier in the Aussie inning, lost his wicket due to a horrible mix-up with Tamim Iqbal resulting in a nascent jolt to the chase effort. It will not be wrong to say that the real chase effort began after the fall of Sarkar’s wicket as Tamim and Shakib-al-Hasan put on a 79-run stand for the second wicket in just 14.2 overs. That partnership, dotted with glorious shots all-round the park from the two left-handers, set the template for a Bangladeshi fightback.
Just when Shakib was looking to notch-up yet another impactful score, tragedy struck as Marcus Stoinis’ golden arm extracted a leading edge off Shakib’s bat which was dutifully gobbled up by Warner at mid-off. But again, this was not the back-breaking jolt because a certain Mushfiqur Rahim had decided to step up this time. Small partnerships ensued with Tamim and Liton Das to keep the scorecard ticking but it was the Rahim’s 5th wicket stand with Mahmudullah which really fired Bangladeshi fancies, albeit ever so slightly.
A 50-ball 69-run effort loaded with 5 fours and 3 sixes revived Mahmudullah, the finisher, as Bangladesh breached the 300-run mark for a second straight time. Now with 82 runs required off the final 5 overs, it was the time for Mahmudullah and Rahim (then batting on a run-a-ball 83) to try and get as close to the Aussie target as possible. But, as luck would have it, Bangladeshi response, which had been so youthful and flamboyant up to that stage in the chase, suddenly ran out of steam as Nathan Coulter-Nile landed a double punch by nipping out Mahmudullah and Sabbir Rahman on consecutive deliveries to bury all the hopes of a close finish.
What remained after that was the 7th ODI century for Rahim which he brought up in the penultimate over while taking his team to its highest ODI finish ever. Though Bangladesh lost the game by 48-runs, they won a million hearts for they refused to be bullied into submission.
They stood for the assertion of their authority. They lacked in the experience of handling such big chases against quality bowling attacks but they didn’t lack the spirit to lift their game. They conceded way too many runs at the death but this defeat will surely constitute a better learning curve on what-not-to-do in such high-octane games in the future.