Kiwis businesslike

THE period between the heady win over the Proteas and the game against Bangladesh at Kimberly was no

The nightclub brawl in Durban that included among the others the nation's cricketing icon Chris Cairns, was certainly not the kind of publicity that a side, in a desperate race to the Super Six, required.

The New Zealand camp, predictably, played down the controversy, cricket manager Jeff Crowe conducted his own enquiry, and a lid was put on the incident. The Kiwis had to get their focus back on cricket.

The New Zealanders' decision not to travel to Kenya had been a hard one, and this meant their qualification for the Super Six was in the balance. They not only had to win their last two games against minnows Bangladesh and Canada, but had to do so convincingly to boost the net run-rate.

Kenya's shock victory over Sri Lanka had thrown Group `B' wide open, raising the distinct possibility of two or more sides finishing on 16 points. The Kiwis were well aware of the dangers of a two or a three-way tie.

"This is a very important game... we are leaving nothing to chance because we need to improve our net run-rate besides putting four more points on the board. Whatever happened off the field is behind us and we are focussed for our last two games," said Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming on the eve of the duel, underling the significance of the contest from a New Zealand perspective.

However, New Zealand did use the opportunity to provide a couple of fringe players a game - batsman Mathew Sinclair and paceman Kyle Mills coming in for Nathan Astle and Lou Vincent. Astle has a chronic knee injury that may require surgery after the tournament, and it was smart thinking by the Kiwis to rest this key batsman in a relatively lesser game.

For Bangladesh, the tournament has been a disaster, and the side has come under severe criticism from several quarters. Yet the game at Kimberly gave Bangladesh a chance to at least redeem some pride.

In the event, the sub-continental side managed to do that, getting to its highest World Cup score of 198 for seven, although the Kiwis still won handsomely, reaching the target in the 34th over, Craig McMillan, gradually rediscovering his form, cracking a 83-ball 75 as opener.

Having let Bangladesh off the hook at 128 for seven, the Kiwis had to go for broke after a cautious beginning, even if the target wasn't exactly a measly one. It was the in-form Stephen Fleming who then upped the tempo, hammering medium-pacer Tapash Baishya's fourth over for 21 runs.

The Kiwi captain had made a wonderfully attacking hundred against the Proteas, a match-winning one at that, and he did threaten to cut loose again, before little paceman Khaled Mahmud picked up a return catch. Fleming's 32 had been an entertaining effort, the opening pair had put on 71, yet the captain had missed out on a bigger score.

McMillan, tentative early on, gradually grew in confidence, and he did deliver some telling blows, enabling the Kiwis to maintain the run-rate. The chunky batsman has played several vital innings for New Zealand over the years, and his lack of form during the last six months had been worrying for the Kiwis.

Normally a cocky customer, McMillan's confidence appeared to have taken a beating. He was even left out of the final three ODIs against India at home and was only a marginal choice for the World Cup.

Under the circumstances, the decision to promote McMillan to the opener's slot was a well thought out one by the team-management, and after useful runs against the Proteas, his 75 (83b, 9x4, 2x6) at Kimberly must have done his morale a world of good.

Mahmud, who tends to get the ball to skid, dismissed Andre Adams (19), promoted in the order, and then castled McMillan. But Scott Styris (35 off 34 balls) and Chris Cairns (30 off 18) were involved in an unbeaten 61-run stand and finished the game in a hurry, the latter even unleashing a monster of a straight hit that cleared the ground.

Earlier, after Khaled Mashud had won the toss at the De Beers Diamond ground, opener Mohammad Ashraful (56, 82b, 6x4, 1x6) held firm even as the other Bangladesh batsmen found the pace and bounce of Shane Bond too hot to handle. And when Jacob Oram hit the right length and achieved some bounce too, their life became even more difficult.

Ashraful, put down by Cairns at 24, reached a battling half-century before perishing to a miscued pull off Shane Bond. When he walked back, Bangladesh was tottering at 107 for six, that soon became 128 for seven after Mahmud fell to the Oram - keeper McCullum combination.

However, a fighting unbeaten eighth-wicket 70-run partnership between skipper Mashud (35 not out, 54 balls, five fours) and the left-handed Mohammed Rafique (41 not out, 42 balls, three fours, two sixes), during which both batsmen essayed some bold strokes, took Bangladesh to within a whisker of 200.

It was a creditable performance by Bangladesh, but not enough to bother an organised, well-knit unit.

The scores:

Bangladesh: Hannan Sarkar c McCullum b Bond 9; Mohammad Ashraful c & b Bond 56; Sanwar Hossain b Oram 5; Habibul Bashar c McCullum b Oram 0; Alok Kapali c Bond b Adams 9; Akram Khan c Fleming b Bond 13; Khaled Mashud (not out) 35; Khaled Mahmud c McCullum b Oram 12; Mohammad Rafique (not out) 41; Extras (b-1, lb-4, w-10, nb-3) 18; Total (for seven wickets in 50 overs) 198.

Fall of wickets: 1-19, 2-37, 3-37, 4-71, 5-105, 6-107, 7-128.

New Zealand bowling: Bond 10-1-33-3, Mills 6-0-32-0, Adams 10-0-50-1, Oram 10-1-32-3, Cairns 3-0-17-0, Vettori 10-0-19-0, Styris 1-0-10-0.

New Zealand: Craig McMillan b Khaled Mahmud 75; Stephen Fleming c & b Khaled Mahmud 32; Andre Adams c Ashraful b Khaled Mahmud 18; Scott Styris (not out) 37; Chris Cairns (not out) 33; Extras (w-3, nb-1) 4; Total (for three wickets in 33.3 overs) 199.

Fall of wickets: 1-71, 2-99, 3-138.

Bangladesh bowling: Islam 7-1-37-0, Baisya 8-0-56-0, Mahmud 10-0-46-3, Kapali 6-0-38-0, Hossain 2-0-19-0, Ashraful 0.3-0-3-0.