Following their robust performance a few days ago against South Africa, Bangladesh were unable to force a similar outcome against New Zealand, despite an impressive fightback when the cause seemed all but lost.
The last time Bangladesh and New Zealand were due to meet, tragic events intervened and eventually led to the cancellation of a tour. The events in Christchurch on Friday 15th March will forever be etched in the minds of the Bangladesh players who witnessed the chaos, similarly the collective New Zealand national consciousness will always remember that day with sadness. The enormous respect and goodwill between the two teams, forged through adversity, was clearly evident on an overcast day at the Oval, although the keenly fought nature of the contest meant that sentiment had to be put to one side.
A Carnival Atmosphere
The 200 metre walk from Oval tube station to the ground was even more congested than a few days previous, a mass of fans in red and green almost carrying one another along in unison through the narrow streets, Bangladesh supporters easily outnumbering Kiwi counterparts. The makeshift counterfeit merchandise stall just yards from the Hobbs gate was hugely popular, bringing the crowds to a standstill, it was selling everything from flags to jester hats all adorned with Bangladesh team colours. Spontaneous singing and dancing also erupted around the perimeter of the ground, accompanied by loud repeated chants of amar desh Bangladesh, all this before a single ball had been bowled.
Clearly the Bangladesh fans were in festive mood, the match was an opportunity to extend the Eid celebrations and with the month of Ramadan over they turned out in greater numbers than before and in louder voice. When interviewed after the game, man of the match Ross Taylor likened the atmosphere to being in Dhaka or Chittagong, the decibel levels reaching optimal levels towards the end of the game when an unlikely victory briefly seemed possible. The Oval was the perfect setting for the exuberant Bangladesh supporters, London’s best venue for hosting an unselfconsciousness party, much more so than it’s stiff and formal north London neighbour, Lords.
Mushi’s Mixed Day
Mushifiqur experienced the highs and lows of international sport within a few hours, his vast experience gained from being capped 207 times in ODIs couldn’t prevent him from making basic errors which had a huge impact on the game. He arrived at the crease with both openers back in the dressing room, 60 runs on the board and a run rate that looked more at home in a Test Match. In partnership with Shakib he set about repairing the innings, as they had done so effectively against South Africa. The pair had added 50 runs when disaster struck; Mushifiqur set off for a single after pushing the ball into the offside, a combination of ball watching and a lack of response from non striker Shakib meant that he was stranded in the middle of the pitch, a run out being the inevitable result. Apportioning blame for the run out is something that will no doubt be endlessly debated, the overriding fact being that it simply shouldn’t have occurred between two of Bangladesh’s all-time greats
Mushifiqur’s next vital intervention took place in the 12th over of New Zealand’s reply, Williamson’s innings was in it’s early stages when indecisive running between him and Taylor should have led to Williamson being run out. Tamim’s throw from mid off was collected by the diminutive keeper in front of the stumps but crucially his arm dislodged the bail before the ball had reached his gloves. The crowd initially unaware of Mushi’s mistake, roared in full throated celebration, however the hands on heads of the fielders signalled despair even before the third umpire decision of not out was made. The let off allowed Taylor and Williamson to amass a match winning 105 run partnership and a feeling of “what if” amongst Bangladesh supporters, emphasising how small the margins are between success and failure in sport.
Mushifiqur’s road to redemption began with Taylor’s eventual dismissal, a sharp catch taken down the legside off Miraz, made particularly difficult as the batsman partially obscured the flight of the ball. An even more impressive catch was taken off the bowling of Saifuddin late in the innings to spark an improbable comeback. de Grandhomme attempted a ramp over the keeper but his contact on the ball wasn’t strong enough, giving Mushifiqur the chance to leap in the air and take a one handed catch with both feet off the ground.
As alluded to by skipper Mashrafe after the game, the match was lost due to a lack of runs being put on the board, the inability of the Kiwi batsmen to comfortably chase down a mediocre target highlighted how an additional 30 runs could have made a significant difference. However the fact that Bangladesh came so close to snatching a victory despite being behind for most of the game should give them heart and confidence to take into the remaining first phase games. Most of the batsmen achieved starts but other than Shakib failed to carry on, this in large part was down to the disciplined bowling by the New Zealand fast bowlers. Ferguson’s aggressive length and tight lines never allowing the batsmen to settle into a comfortable run scoring pattern.
In contrast the Bangladesh quicks had a challenging day at the office, Saifuddin the only one to claim wickets. Captain Mashrafe has now gone wicketless in the first two games of the tournament, more concerningly he hasn’t managed to bowl his full quota of overs, instead deciding to use other options. His combined figures so far of 11 overs, 81 runs and no wickets are unflattering, and the time will soon come to re-assess his role in the team. Undoubtedly he has been Bangladesh’s best ever captain, in terms of results and his unparalleled leadership qualities, after being the glue that binds the team together for so many years the sheer physical and mental effort maybe starting to take it’s toll.
Next for Bangladesh is a fascinating encounter with England at Cardiff on Saturday. Both teams find themselves on two points, having played two games, England’s previous game against Pakistan exposed frailties and the expectation is for them to be doubly focused on victory. Bangladesh meanwhile will be quietly confident going into game but with much hard work to do for another two points.