Playing in the Champions Trophy for the first time in a decade, not a lot was expected from Bangladesh. Edging West Indies to make the cut for the high-profile tournament, they stood little chance in a group with Australia, New Zealand and England.
But with a five-wicket win over New Zealand, powered by the stunning run-chase headed by Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah’s centuries, Bangladesh now stands a strong chance of making it to the semi-finals.
The win encapsulates another fine performance from the outfit that has been on a rise since the 2015 World Cup, where they masterminded England’s exit. On Friday, it was their turn to show New Zealand the door in the Champions Trophy. Chasing 266, the team were pushed to corner as they slumped of 33/4. It was then that Shakib and Mahmudullah came into the middle and shared a marathon 224-run stand to script an epic turnaround.
The team now awaits the result of Saturday’s game between England and Australia. Only a defeat for the latter would enable the Asian outfit to make the semi-finals. Whatever the result, the team will be reveling in the stunning fashion it which they achieved victory.
Batsmen scoring big
Shakib and Mahmudullah refused to surrender. Using their experience, the players grinded out a fightback. Shakib scored 114 off 115 deliveries, while Mahmudullah saw the team through by remaining unbeaten on 102. The duo’s stand was the biggest ever for Bangladesh and helped the side take another step forward in their sprint to the big leagues.
At the heart of Bangladesh’s fine performance so far in the Champions Trophy has been the big knocks of its players. The Tigers have treaded through years of despair, that has largely been attributed to the inability of their batsmen to score the big runs. While many in the past have scrapped through with 50s and 60s, they have rarely been able to convert them to three figures with consistency. It is the big knocks that are distinguish the also-rans from the champions.
But in all three Champions Trophy matches, at least one batsman has managed to score a big knock.
Tamim Iqbal scored a century in the opener against England. While, it came in a losing cause, the performance showed intent. In the second game against Australia, Tamim once again came to the fore. He fell for 95, but his knock proved vital as the match was abandoned due to rain. If not for his knock, the team’s total would been far lower and could have seen Australia sail through much before the rain came tumbling down. Against New Zealand, there were two batsmen who scored big.
Big knocks had never been Bangladesh’s forte. Their batsmen have seldom been ones to score the headline grabbing centuries. Shakib, considered a superstar in his home country, has just seven to his credit. Prior to Friday, he had last scored a ton in 2014 against Zimbabwe.
Performance at ICC events
But against New Zealand, Shakib played with the kind of intent that one expects from the side’s premier star. He adopted a measured approach at the start, before slowly shifting the gears as he finished with a flurry of runs to take the side to the brink of victory. He had Mahmudullah for company.
The 31-year-old has made a penchant for scoring centuries against big teams in ICC events. Prior to Friday, he has two ODI centuries to his credit, both of which came during the 2015 World Cup (against England and New Zealand). Bangladesh performed well in the tournament and even orchestrated England’s exit. The centuries by Mahmudullah went a long way to keep the side competitive among teams like England and New Zealand, who had strong bowling attacks.
His love for ICC tournaments must have grown even stronger on Friday. The right-hand batsman was in fine form. Bangladesh prospered as he scored another ton on the big stage. He complemented Shakib perfectly as the two went about dismantling the New Zealand bowling attack, that had looked ominous in the early stages.
Tim Southee was in terrific form. He had bagged three wickets in his first two overs. With a nip in the air, the Kiwi pacers were all over the Bangladeshi batsmen. Shakib and Mahmudullah broke their stranglehold successfully.
It wasn’t long before the momentum shifted. But, they were never safe. A wicket at the stage could have proved catastrophic, considering the side’s limited batting options following the pair.The pressure of being knocked out was all too prevalent as well. Both teams entered the contest knowing that the loser would be knocked out.
As Shakib and Mahmadullah entered the field, that feeling would have been all too pervasive. The duo kept their calm, adding another famous victory to the many Bangladesh have notched up in the past two years.