Consistency pays dividends

The result of the match between Bangladesh and Bermuda might have appeared a foregone conclusion. But, rain reduced the match to 21-overs-a-side — anybody's game. S. Ram Mahesh reports.

March 25, 2007 will forever be remembered in Bangladesh as the day its cricket side showed it belonged with the elite. The win to make the Super Eight may have only been against lowly Bermuda, but such events are not to be viewed in isolation.

Bangladesh's defeat of India was not a triumph of David over Goliath as much as it was a triumph of good cricket over bad. Bangladesh played consistently better cricket than India to put itself in place for a spot in the Super Eight.

The result of the match against Bermuda might have appeared a foregone conclusion. But, rain reduced the match to 21-overs-a-side — anybody's game. "If you play 50 overs, you know you have a fair chance. You can lose early wickets and come back," said Habibul Bashar, the Bangladesh captain. "But in a 20-overs game, two wickets can make it very tough to get back in the game."

Indeed, at 37 for three, chasing a modified target of 96, Bangladesh was in a spot of bother. Saleem Mukuddem had given Bermuda a sniff by removing Bangladesh's top three. Mukuddem made excellent use of the overcast conditions and the wet wicket.

But, his partner Kevin Hurdle bowled seven wides and over-stepped thrice to gift Bangladesh runs. Mohammad Ashraful and Saqibul Hasan batted with maturity to put on an unbeaten 59 in 10.2 overs. Ashraful may have been dropped twice in his innings, but he took control of the chase and guided Saqibul.

"This game was the most difficult game to win to try and qualify," said Dav Whatmore, the Bangladesh coach. "To wait all day and play 20 overs against a team you're expected to beat when the ball is doing a lot is very difficult. It's not a situation the boys have been in. Sure the heart was pumping. But, the boys were determined to go to the Super Eight, and they were determined to let nothing stop them."

It must be mentioned, however, that Bermuda came off worse at the toss. Consequently, the amateur batsmen had to deal with frequent breaks in concentration, constant tinkering with the length of the match, and the helpful bowling conditions.

"It was very difficult," said Irving Romaine, the Bermuda captain. "We never got started really. The rain messed up a good game. We were really determined to come hard at Bangladesh, but the rain hindered us. You saw that (coming hard) in our bowling effort. For Bangladesh, it was easier batting second, knowing exactly what to do."

Only Dean Minors and Oliver Pitcher got past 20 for Bermuda. But, neither managed the impact Lionel Cann did with his six-ball 16. Cann struck Aftab Ahmed for a monster six — comfortably the biggest seen in Group B matches at the Queen's Park Oval.

But, Bangladesh had too much quality for Bermuda. "We've taken great care in our preparations," said Whatmore. "We knew we had a good chance of making the Super Eight. Others might view it as a surprise but not us. We were quietly confident that we could defeat either Sri Lanka or India."

Bangladesh's moment arrived at nearly 6 p.m. local time. The light had deteriorated, but Ashraful and Saqibul held their nerve to settle matters.

THE SCORES

Bermuda 94 for nine in 21 overs (A. Razzak three for 20) lost to Bangladesh 96 for three in 17.3 overs (S. Hasan 26 not out, M. Ashraful 29 not out, S. Mukuddem three for 19). Bangladesh won by seven wickets (D/L method).