After two closely-contested games that saw Bangladesh win one and lose the other, the third against England at Cardiff yesterday turned out to be a bitter pill to swallow.
The ruthless England batters burst the Tigers’ growing World Cup bubble with an astonishing display of clean hitting that produced 386 for six.
The game as a contest was well and truly over at that point.
The Tigers fans in the stands, at a venue where their beloved team had pulled off two miracles before, were expecting another. But it was not to be as Bangladesh’s chase ended on 280.
The highlight of the Bangladesh innings was a fighting 121 by Shakib Al Hasan. His maiden World Cup century kept Bangladesh ticking along and his century stand for the third wicket with Mushfiqur Rahim was the other bright spot in a game where hosts England hardly put a foot wrong after losing the toss.
The decision from Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza to bowl first was not a bad one considering the wicket was under covers for the past two days due to inclement weather. But the way the wicket behaved throughout the game surprised many. There was little seam move-ment and no assistance for the spinners. It was an ideal wicket for England to launch a blister-ing attack against a bowling unit that lacked express pace bowlers and prodigious turners.
Jason Roy scored an imperious 153 and his opening partner, Jonny Bairstow, hit a run-a-ball 50 to give the home side the perfect start. Jos Buttler smashed a 44-ball 64 in the middle and Liam Plunkett provided the perfect finish with a nine-ball 26. England captain Eoin Morgan also chipped in with 35 off 33 balls.
Almost all the seven bowlers Bangladesh used in the match went for seven or more runs per overs. Did they really bowl badly? It is better to say they did not bowl well in tandem, which is the key to pressuring oppositions on non-responsive wickets.
When the going gets tough, the onus is on the captain to rotate his bowlers wisely. But Mashrafe, it seemed, erred under pressure. He almost used up Shakib in the first 20 overs, leav-ing the middle-overs for Mustafizur Rahman to tackle along with off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz. Mustafizur did not bowl well and it was where Bangladesh lost the plot to containing a marauding England.
Bangladesh showed signs of slowing the England progress with two quick wickets but Mashrafe, who is increasingly feeling the pressure of a non-performing captain in three World Cup games so far, made one last error of judgement in the 49th over when he introduced himself into the attack.
He was the most economical among the bowlers with 50 for one from nine overs before that. The captain might have thought others could be more expensive. But it belied logic because he has not bowled in the death overs for a long time and his past experiences of bowling at the death often proved futile.
Mustafizur might have conceded a lot of runs but he was still the best proven option to bowl at the death irrespective of how expensive he was previously. Mashrafe went for 18 runs in that over. Mustafizur might have been costlier, but with him bowling at the death, options are al-ways open for something different to happen.
England were 355 for six after 48 overs. They scored another 30-odd runs in the last two overs with Saifuddin bowling the last over although Fizz still had one left in his quota of 10.
It was England’s day to avenge their World Cup defeat against Bangladesh four years ago. It was Rubel Hossain who knocked England out of the World Cup with a searing display of pace bowling then. Four years down the line, Rubel is still the part of the Tigers’ World Cup squad. He has so far been warming the reserve’s bench.
And Mashrafe knows better than anybody that Rubel deserved better. This World Cup is not for containers. It has been proven that aggressive bowlers are more useful than disciplined ones because nobody now cares about how many runs you have conceded, but how many priceless wickets you have taken at the end of the day.
It is a call the inspirational Bangladesh captain has to take some time during the course of the tournament, even if it is harsh on him.