Saturday, 12 March 2011

England deal in drama once again as Bangladesh win by two wickets

Bangladesh were back from the dead as they pulled off a tense two-wicket win over England with an over to spare in the Group B cliffhanger.

To the delirium of a nation and the despair of England's increasingly grumpy cricketers, Bangladesh conjured a famous victory that throws Group B wide open yet again.

Shakib Al Hasan's side, pilloried here after their ignominious defeat to West Indies in Dhaka a week ago, were heroes once more after defeating England by two wickets with an over to spare in yet another thrilling contest involving Andrew Strauss's weary tourists.

A breathtaking ninth-wicket partnership between Mahmudullah, the coolest man in Chittagong on Friday night, and Shafiul Islam, bold and nerveless in a crisis, saw Bangladesh home. They added 58 to snatch back a game that the home side had dominated for most of the day, but that seemed to be lurching back towards England when Bangladesh lost five wickets for 14 runs in mid‑innings.

Suddenly that stand, sparked by Shafiul smiting Graeme Swann for four and six in the off-spinner's final over, transformed the mood of the crowd, many of whom had started to drift home. Some of England's players looked exhausted as well as disenchanted by the end. Jimmy Anderson, Strauss's banker in the Ashes series, delivered three wides in the first over of the final powerplay. He was striving as hard as he could but the eyes were glazed and there was not much going on behind them. There seemed nothing left to give.

This result means that England will surely have to beat West Indies in their final group match next Thursday to have a chance of that quarter-final slot. A blitz from Chris Gayle, if he recovers fitness, or Kieron Pollard in Chennai could finish them off for good. Meanwhile, Bangladesh's hopes are still alive.

England were at their most capricious here. In the field their ill-temper was reflected by Swann, snatching his cap from the umpire Daryl Harper, after remonstrating with the Australian on several occasions. It was not Harper's fault that Swann was compelled to bowl with a wet ball. There was more chance of seeing Swann with a smile than a parking meter in Chittagong, even though he managed to pick up two important wickets when he had a chance to bowl with the drier replacement ball in his second spell.

It may be a nonsense that one side is able to bowl with a dry ball and the other with a wet one in a contest of this importance. But the financial lure of floodlit cricket far exceeds any urge for a fair contest in the minds of the modern cricket administrator.

Even so England, having lost the toss, had only themselves to blame. For periods they fought tenaciously in the field, where they were compelled to defend an inadequate total of 225. Ajmal Shahzad popped up everywhere, bowling a poor first spell, running out Imrul Kayes with a brilliant throw, then producing three superb deliveries to right-handed batsmen. At least he was not lacking energy; nor was Eoin Morgan, England's saviour when they were batting. It may be no coincidence that England's liveliest players were not much involved in the Ashes campaign.

With the exception of Morgan England's batsmen were witless, as insipid as the last cup of lukewarm tea at the village fete. However, the atmosphere was as far removed from the gentility of the village green as it possible to be. No cream teas, just a wonderful cacophony of support for the home side.

The dismissal of their converted opener, Matt Prior, reflected England's doziness. He was stumped at the second attempt by the far more alert Mushfiqur Rahim. When Rahim first removed the bails after a leg-side wide from Abdur Razzak, Prior's back foot was just inside the popping crease. But England's wicketkeeper continued meandering so Rahim, ball in hand, removed the stump and in so doing removed Prior as well.

The pattern was set. Strauss, tentative after his first-over dismissal against South Africa, cut an off-break from Naeem Islam to slip. Then Ian Bell played the most insipid innings of all: five runs from 23 balls before he chipped an off-break gently to midwicket.

England were falling into that old trap again: trying only to eliminate error they were terrified of taking a risk and they allowed the Bangladesh spinners to dominate.