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11 February 201616:55 By Sidhanta Patnaik, Mirpur

All-round Springer takes West Indies U19 to final

Hetmyer weighs in with classy 60 as host Bangladesh U19 crashes out after three-wicket defeat

The pressure of 15,000 fans chanting ‘Banglaadesh…Bangladesh’ in sync to cheer the home team in their ICC Under-19 World Cup 2016 semi-final clash against West Indies at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium on Thursday (February 11) was perhaps too hot to handle for 11 teenaged cricketers. But, even if Bangladesh failed to seize key passages of play and lost by three wickets as West Indies surged into the title round, the fighting spirit of Mehedi Hasan Miraz and his boys, and the reverberating atmosphere created by a huge turnout on a working day, indicated the blooming health of the game in this south Asian nation.

While there were many ebbs and flow in a thrilling game where Bangladesh rode on Miraz’s 60 to make 226 after winning the toss, Mohammad Saifuddin’s failure to hold on to a return catch from Shamar Springer in the 34th over proved the turning point in the final analysis. Springer was on 15 off 42 balls then; he remained unbeaten on 62 off 87 balls as West Indies completed a tense chase of 227 in 48.4 overs and booked a date with India in the final at the same venue on February 14.

Springer (2/36) had earlier been instrumental in Bangladesh being bowled out off the last ball of the 50th over. The home team started its innings in chilly conditions, with the fog making visibility an issue for the first 45 minutes. The West Indies new-ball pair of Alzarri Joseph and Chemar Holder, however, was erratic in its line of attack and conceded too many extras.

Even though they removed both the openers early, Bangladesh reached 48 for 2 in 10 overs, making it one of the best batting starts at this venue in the tournament.

Shimron Hetmyer, the West Indian skipper, brought on the right-arm medium-fast duo of Ryan John in the 11th over and Springer in the 14th to pull things back, and they responded to their captain’s trust in them by bowling in a tight back-of-the-length channel. The duo conceded just 65 runs and picked up three wickets including that of Nazmul Hossain Shanto in 18 overs.

An injury to Keemo Paul while fielding in the 15th over left West Indies one bowler short for a large part of its bowling stint and Miraz, fresh from his unbeaten 55 in the quarter-final against Nepal, took charge yet again.

Hetmyer brought back Joseph in the 27th over and Miraz took a calculated risk, hitting two fours even as the bowler was warned for bowling a threatening beamer. That West Indies was frustrated was visible in Gidron Pope’s Mankading warning to Saifuddin in the 42nd over.

Miraz was taking Bangladesh to a strong total through his sixth-wicket partnership of 85 with Saifuddin when Paul bowled for the first time in the 46th over and provided the second big moment in the game.

Miraz was caught at mid-off for 56 with the team’s score at 198, Saifuddin played a reckless shot and was bowled for 36 off the next delivery, and Saeed Sarkar lost his stump to a yorker as Bangladesh lost the momentum.

With three wickets in seven balls across two overs, Paul set the base for West Indies’ first final appearance after 2004, which had also come in Bangladesh.

Pope took 14 runs off the first over of the West Indies’ chase, sent down by Miraz. With the captain treated with disdain, Bangladesh was caught off guard. Saleh Ahmed Shawon dropped a sitter off Pope at backward square-leg in the fourth over. Though Pope added just 16 more runs before Miraz bowled him and ran in celebration to fine-leg, West Indies had already reached 56 for 2 in seven overs and given Hetmyer and Keacy Carty the opportunity to take their time to settle down.

The third-wicket duo batted sensibly during its 62-run stand, as the fielders’ shoulders dropped. West Indies shifted gears when Hetmyer’s timing fetched him two fours and a six off Sarkar in the 18th over.

The highlight of Hetmyer’s knock, like his half-century in the quarter-final against Pakistan, was the manner in which he used his feet against the spinners and played his shots with soft hand. Also, that the captain was easily handling a charged-up atmosphere must have pumped his team-mates in the dressing room.

Hetmyer was finally dismissed in the 28th over when he was caught by smartly by Saif Hassan against the run of play for a classy 60. Three overs later, Saifuddin dropped Springer, with West Indies needing 70 runs, and Bangladesh could never recover after that even if Shawon, the left-arm spinner, struck twice in the first over of his third spell in the 38th over.

The score was 181 for 6 at that point, but the seventh-wicket partnership of 36 between Springer and Michael Frew took West Indies to the doorstep of a memorable win. Fittingly, Springer ended the game with the winning hit off Saifuddin.

Bangladesh may have fallen just short of creating history, but its brand of play has gone a long way in making the 11th edition of the competition an entertaining affair.

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