By R Kaushik in Mirpur
Nervy Bangladesh bundled out for 98, after Smith’s 43-ball 72 helps his team post 171
It was a game full of mistakes between two teams extremely nervous for entirely different reasons. The cricket was neither qualitatively of the highest order, nor did it appeal to the fans who had crammed the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur desperately hoping for a popular home victory on the eve of the country’s Independence Day.
Still seemingly not having recovered from their confidence-sapping loss to Hong Kong five nights ago, Bangladesh was edgy, unimpressive and bordering on the mediocre in its opening Group 2 Super 10 match in the ICC World Twenty20 2014 on Tuesday (March 25). West Indies, the defending champion faced with the prospect of elimination, was again patchy, uncertain and hesitant, if only slightly less so than against India during its seven-wicket loss two nights ago.
Bangladesh, chasing 172 for victory, was bundled out for 98 to go down by the massive margin of 73 runs, the Sher-e-Bangla reverberating with the deafening sound of silence as one batsman after another fell to the wiles of Samuel Badree and Krishmar Santokie, and Dwayne Bravo put up a catching masterclass in another game of several dropped catches.
The empty seats as fans began to stream out of the stadium midway through the chase reflected the disillusionment of the Bangladesh fan, who couldn’t bear to hang on and watch the denouement being played out in front of his eyes.
Barring Dwayne Smith, who batted as if on an entirely different surface, no other West Indies player could find any authority on a sluggish track after being put in by Mushfiqur Rahim, Chris Gayle best illustrating the travails of batsmen from across teams.
Arguably the most destructive T20 batsman going, Gayle was becalmed for large periods, the explosion that everyone was waiting for never arriving. West Indies still managed 171 for 7, thanks as much to Smith’s exuberant 43-ball 72 as to one of the shoddiest fielding performances – Tamim Iqbal excepted – in recent times.
Bangladesh was rocked by two strikes in as many deliveries at the start of the fourth over by Santokie, the second of Shakib Al Hasan, bowled through the gate, a crippling blow from which it never recovered.
Like against Hong Kong when it was shot out for 108, the lack of fight in the Bangladesh batting must have been particularly galling for the home fans, who had braved tight security checks and an edict that they should not carry the flag of any other nation apart from their own. Barring Rahim, who showed intent and purpose before being held brilliantly at point by a flying Bravo, the rest were blown away like autumn leaves, Badree stepping in to eat into the soft underbelly after Santokie had given them the perfect start.
Badree will be the first to acknowledge that 4-0-15-4 was slightly flattering. Darren Sammy took an excellent catch at short mid-wicket to get rid of Sabbir Rahman two deliveries before Bravo’s stunner, while Lendl Simmons, keeping wickets after Denesh Ramdin left the park with an injured finger, held on to a sharp chance offered by Mahmudullah. But even so, the leg-spinner strung together enough pressure deliveries to force the batsmen to go looking for strokes that weren’t there, his fast arm-action and the skid off the surface giving the batsmen no time whatsoever to line him up.
Bangladesh’s abject surrender with the bat came after a horror show in the field. Tamim pulled off two extraordinary catches, one at long-off as he threw the ball up in the air when he was about to step off the playing field, then sauntered in to gobble it up and end Gayle’s misery, the other at short third-man as he went levitating, goalkeeper-style, to get rid of Bravo, first ball, but the rest of the fielding was little short of ordinary. Rahim let slip 10 byes, the ground fielding was amateurish and Mahmudullah put down two catches, all serving to deflate the team at the break even if Al-Amin Hossain had provided minor consolation with three wickets in an extraordinary final over of the West Indies innings that in all saw four wickets go down for just four runs.
The wickets just didn’t come Bangladesh’s way at the start of the evening, even if West Indies didn’t quite get away. Mashrafe Mortaza began with a wide to Smith that screamed away to the fine-leg fence, then was pulled for four off the second legal ball of the game, but Bangladesh pulled things back especially when Gayle, who had received attention to his left ankle before play began, was on strike.
Gayle was unrecognisable as the marauding force he generally is across formats, his movements far from hampered but his batting laborious and painstaking. There was one monstrous six off Sohag Gazi – one of four changes to the Bangladesh XI that lost to Hong Kong – but that was no harbinger of gladder tidings, necessitating Smith to do all the running.
Smith didn’t disappoint. Having used the sweep to good effect against Gazi early on, he picked four boundaries off the off-spinner’s final over including a wonderfully executed reverse sweep, single-handedly ensuring that West Indies maintained a decent run rate even though his beleaguered partner was hardly able to hit a stroke in anger.
The last of those fours took Smith past 50, in just 33 deliveries; his next 22 came off only 10 more until he put up an attempted slog-sweep off Mahmudullah, and was well caught by Al-Amin running around from short-fine.
Having dominated the opening stand of 97, Smith hadn’t yet taken his pads off when Simmons was smartly stumped down leg off Shakib’s first ball of the match, two wickets in three deliveries lifting the spirits of the team and the 25,000 fans at the Sher-e-Bangla, grateful that Gayle was nowhere near finding his feet. Gayle was 19 off 28 when Smith was dismissed, hobbled to 26 off 35 after 15 overs and then decided it was time to tee off. Without the ball ever threatening the middle of the bat, he managed 22 off the next 13 until that stunner from Tamim sent him packing, 48 off 48 an innings Gayle would love to forget in a hurry.
Gayle had Marlon Samuels for company in the struggle for fluency, though Darren Sammy, benefitting from Mahmudullah’s largesse, kept coming hard at the bowling. In the end, West Indies managed 55 from the last five despite Al-Amin’s final-over heroics. It still played out 52 dot balls to 66 against India, but 17 fours and five sixes served as ample compensation.