Bangladesh Spin a Web

Rahman creams Southee through cover

Bangladesh opened their U-19 World Cup campaign with a tense three-wicket victory against New Zealand which owed much to the prowess of their spinners.

Between them, Bangladesh’s four left-arm spinners bowled 33.3 overs and took all of the wickets (bar one run-out) to fall. After a solid start which saw New Zealand move comfortably on to a fifty-run opening partnership, Nabil Chowdhury and Saqibul Hassan put the brakes on the New Zealanders and started imposing themselves on the batsmen. Nabil Samad (8-1-18-2) made the initial breakthrough, having Martin Guptill caught by Saqibul at midwicket in the fourteenth over with the score on 57. In his next over he had Keiran Barnett caught behind and Bangladesh were on their way.

Todd Astle held firm as wickets fell around him, he gave a couple of hard chances but in chasing a wide one from Mehrab Hossain he fell for 44. Only the New Zealand captain Mark Ellison found any sort of fluency against the spinners but even that was short –lived as deprived of the strike for a while and then unable to get the ball off the square, he was bowled leg and middle as he went for a slog-sweep off the fourth ball of the 38th over for 26. New Zealand were 140 for 5. Another New Zealand wicket fell for no addition in the very next over.

Mehrab Hossain in particular had made the ball spin and bounce sharply and the bowlers were ably backed up the fielders, a couple of sharp dropped chances apart. Bangladesh would have been delighted to dismiss New Zealand for just 175 on a good wicket but bowling 21 wides had boosted New Zealand’s score considerably.

Shuvo beats Hira with a beauty

With five left-arm spinners in the team, spin bowling will provide the competitive thrust for Bangladesh in this tournament and with all of them also being all-rounders, Bangladesh’s fortunes rest largely on their shoulders. On the evidence presented so far, it is a burden they don’t individually carry with utter conviction but their combined efforts may still be good enough to carry them through all the way.

With New Zealand being dismissed with overs to spare, Bangladesh went out to bat for a ten-minute pre-lunch session. Tim Southee had Tamim Iqbal yorked in the second over of the Bangladesh innings and next ball, super sub Mehdi Hassan edged to first slip. Tall, long arms and long legs and a follow-through that takes him half-way down the wicket he was always on the verge of making more things happen.

Bangladesh’s remaining batsmen would have to guts it out and that they did. During the lunch interval four of the batsmen knocked up in the outfield and that attitude of diligence paid off. First ball after lunch, the left-hander Saqibul Hassan straight-drove to the boundary and he looked to be in good touch but one delivery after glancing a four to fine-leg he played on to a sharply rising Hamish Bennett delivery. Bangladesh were 31 for 3.

Shamsur Rahman interspersed rasping shots square of the wicket with cheeky singles and a couple of streaky shots but the moment he hit the last ball of Tim Southee’s sixth over into the ivy-clad scoreboard for a glorious six, New Zealand’s opening bowlers had been well and truly nullified.

However, the first ball of the next over from New Zealand’s own slow left-armer Roneel Hira took a wicket, as Roqibul Hassan, who had been there from the beginning for a patient 18 was caught behind attempting a cut. New Zealand were right back in the game.

More so, when in the next over Shamsur Rahman was caught behind off the slow left-armer Jason Donnelly for 30. Bangladesh were now 78 for 5 in the 14th over. The two batsmen at the crease, Mehrab Hossain and his captain Mushfiqur Rahim with everything to do.

Attacking fields were set by the slow-bowlers, only square leg outside the 30-yard circle at as New Zealand realised that the only way to get Bangladesh out would be to get them trying to play field-piercing strokes. Bangladesh could elect to poke and prod their way to victory but as Mehrab Hossain showed with his first scoring stroke, a lofted drive to mid-on for two, big shots are the way he and most others in the team would prefer to play. An intriguing game of cat-and-mouse followed.

Mushfiqur Rahim showed his class with a couple of sparkling drives forward and backward of square on the off-side. His shot selection throughout was superb and his placement of the ball sublime. His first three scoring strokes were boundaries and with 100 passed, one by one the fielders started falling back Midwicket joined square-leg on the boundary and mid-on followed soon after.

Man of the Match:
Mehrab Hossain

With Bangladesh on 116 at the end of the 24th over, Hamish Bennett was brought back for another fling. He kept the ball rising steeply off a length and his duel with Mushfiqur Rahim was, you felt, going to seriously influence the outcome of the match. Having kept the batsmen on the back foot consistently, it was the first ball Bennett pushed through on a fuller length that took the prize wicket as Rahim, driving, a fraction late to an outswinger, was caught behind for 26. Bangladesh 123-6 in the 27th over.

By the time a tiring Bennett finished his allotment (10-0-39-2), Bangladesh had advanced to 143 after 34 overs, with no further loss. The game was there to be won by singles and pushes, with the ball kept on the ground. Mehrab Hossain duly obliged - two consecutive fours in the 34th over, took Bangladesh to 164.

Sowhradi Shuvo fell leg before to the first ball of the 35th over, however and with just three wickets to get, New Zealand could sniff victory again. But Bangladesh just needed 10 runs. And with two strokes, left-handed Sirajullah Khadim made them, the last a six which went sailing over long-on into that famous ivy-clad P. Saravanamuttu Stadium scoreboard.

Big shots from a big heart. Mehrab Hossain finished unbeaten on 38 and was adjudged Man of the Match.

Group A: Bangladesh v New Zealand, P. Saravananmuttu Stadium, Colombo
New Zealand 175 off 45.3 overs (T. Astle 44; M. Hossain 4-30, S. Shuvo 3-35) LOST to Bangladesh 176 for 7 off 37.5 overs (M. Hossain 38*)

Filed February 6 2006