Mehrab Hossain

In the tournament’s first major upset, England beat Bangladesh by five wickets in a low-scoring game to advance to the Super-League Semi Final, where they meet India.

Two truisms: ‘thinking wins matches’ and ‘defeat teaches more than victory’ were reaffirmed by England’s performance. Coming off the back of a December 2005 tour of Bangladesh where they lost every single game they played and erratic performance in this World Cup itself, England had obviously thought long and hard and formulated tactics appropriate to the conditions and the opposition for this quarter-final. They knew just what they had to do against Bangladesh and executed their game plan perfectly.

England chose to field first after winning the toss the major consideration being that the wicket would play easier as the day went on, suiting a run-chase. They were boosted by three top-order wickets for their pacemen but it was their spinners who played the major part in their victory. A nagging line and length from their left-arm spinners Nick James and Graeme White at the core of the innings meant that Bangladesh were never able to get any sort of momentum going and with White reeling off ten immaculate overs for just eleven runs, Bangladesh’s middle-order lost all purpose and direction. Mehrab Hossain took 50 deliveries to make 11 and was instrumental in letting White bowl five maidens.

On the evidence so far, England are vying with Australia to be the best fielding side in the tournament and the way their fielders backed up their bowlers was nothing short of exceptional. It’s ironic that Bangladesh’s batsmen struggled so much against the spinners because their own side is packed with so many. But what distinguished England’s attack in this instance was their accuracy, as ball after ball was flighted from to land on middle and off, held back just a fraction leaving the batsmen to play forcing shots if they were to attempt runs.

Immaculate forward defensives we saw aplenty from the Bangladesh batsmen, plays and misses too but there was no one who was able to rise above the occasion and play in a way that would scatter the field and give the opportunity, if not for boundaries, at least for regular singles and strike rotation.

As the pressure built, Bangladesh did the best they could and the usually highly combative Mushfiqur Rahim, Sohrawardi Shuvo and Sirajullah Khadim, try as they might, couldn’t ever truly assert themselves. Bangladesh finished on 155, all out in the 49th over.

Bangladesh opened with spin and kept it on throughout. England’s gameplan was to be patient, build the innings around opener Varun Chopra and unleash supersub Mark Nelson should an early wicket fall to ‘pinch-hit’ to buy them some breathing space. That he did, blasting 32 off just 25 deliveries (2 fours, 3 sixes) to take England past 50 in the tenth over. His second ball, he hit out of the ground. An awesome hit. England could now just block and push and punish the loose deliveries when they presented themselves. A fifty-run partnership between Chopra and Moeen Ali consolidated England’s advances. England were 128 for 5 in the 40th over, Shuvo and Hossain bowling well, and Bangladesh were still in with a chance.

That was snuffed out by Steven Mullaney’s two soaring sixes.

That a defeat by England should be considered an upset is of little consolation to Bangladesh. They had met every challenge on the way to the quarter-final and, if anything, were still improving. Many had rated them as having a decent chance to go all the way and the team were playing with confidence and competence. As with every competition, however, it’s not how well you start but how well you finish that matters.

Should they win the Super League lower place Final, Bangladesh will be ranked fifth at U-19 level. They play West Indies in the semi-final for that ranking on the 15th.

Super League Quarter-Final 1: Bangladesh v England, P. Saravanamuttu Stadium, Colombo
England won the toss and elected to field
Bangladesh: 155 off 48.2 overs (S. Mullaney 3-26)
England: 156 off 43.3 overs (V. Chopra 40, M. Nelson 32)
Man of the Match: Varun Chopra (England)
View Scorecard >>

Filed February 13 2006