Bangladesh prove that they are here in the World Cup not merely to make up the numbers but to pose a serious threat to fellow competitors with an emphatic 7-wicket win over West Indies, chasing down 322 with 51 balls to spare. Shakib Al Hasan and Liton Das were their heroes on the day.
Bangladesh had clearly done their homework on Chris Gayle, bombarding him with deliveries outside off. But the one that found the edge eventually – after 13 deliveries – was just at the right length and Mushfiqur Rahim behind the wickets did the rest. With Gayle gone for a duck, it was now up to Evin Lewis, who has looked out of sorts, and the ever-dependable Shai Hope to stitch together a solid partnership and lay the foundation for the rest.
Given Hope’s good numbers against Bangladesh (Ave 94.6 in 9 innings) before this match, he would have fancied his chances. However, it’s puzzling that Windies did not open with him, considering he scores at over 100 in that position. However, Lewis was handed a rope, which he utilized to full effect.
Instead of tossing the ball to the experienced Shakib Al Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza decided to go in with off-spinners Mehidy Hassan and Mosaddek Hossain. Since the 2015 World Cup, Shakib has a strike-rate of 46.1 and 47.6 against right-handed batsmen and left-handed batsmen respectively. That would have prompted the Bangladesh skipper to look for other options to break the steady partnership. He was brought into the attack after 20 overs and was clobbered for 18 in his first two overs. However, despite hitting the first two deliveries for a six and a couple, in Shakib’s second over, Lewis hit one straight into the hands of the long-off fielder. Shakib eventually won the battle, but the war was still on.
West Indies kept the left-right combination going with Nicholas Pooran replacing Lewis in the middle. It made sense for Bangladesh to continue with Mehidy considering Pooran was at the crease as he had picked up 18 wickets at a strike-rate of 31.2 against left-handers since 2018.
Hope started cutting loose once Pooran was dismissed by Shakib for 25. With Shimron Hetmyer looking to attack from the first ball, West Indies started to gain some momentum, just at the right time. The likes of Hetmyer (50 off 26) and then Jason Holder (33 off 15) expressed themselves beautifully and hit towering sixes in the middle overs. In fact, West Indies accumulated 211 runs in the middle phase, which is the most by any team this World Cup.
Bangladesh bowled wayward lines and lengths at the latter stages of the middle overs and also at the death for which they were rightly punished. On a day where Carlos Brathwaite at No. 8 would have been handy, West Indies roped in Darren Bravo in his place. This was the first time Bravo batted in that position in ODIs and managed 19 off 15 to take his side to 321 for 8 – An above par total.
The conditions looked good for Sheldon Cottrell and Jason Holder to open the bowling. It was overcast and there was a hint of swing. Things were going according to plan for West Indies till Cottrell conceded 18 off his fifth over, which shifted the momentum towards Bangladesh. But Soumya Sarkar and Tamim Iqbal were playing sensible cricket – taking ones and twos where available and hitting the poor balls to the fence.
After putting on a fifty-run stand for the first wicket, Sarkar perished for 29 off 23. Shakib Al Hasan, who has been in fine form looked positive right from the beginning and Tamim, who has not been in good form this tournament, got his eye in and started playing some extravagant shorts. As a result, Bangladesh got to their 100 in the 14th over and looked on course to chase down the target.
Brilliant work from Cottrell – smashing the wicket when played back to him by Tamim – eventually brought an end to the Bangladesh opener’s innings abruptly for a well-compiled 48. Mushfiqur Rahim lasted just five deliveries, but Liton Das complemented Shakib well, rotating the strike brilliantly, which gave his partner the freedom to play his natural game. Shakib was well set and was determined to take Bangladesh home. Windies were desperate for a wicket, as Bangladesh needed just 112 from the final 20 overs. Running out of ideas, Holder handed the ball to Chris Gayle as well, but the ploy did not work. The short ball strategy to Shakib too did not work as the all-rounder got behind the line of the ball and also played on top of the ball almost every single time.
It was Mahmudullah who scored back-to-back centuries in the 2015 World Cup and it is Shakib in this edition. Liton also played his part in the unbeaten 189-run stand to guide Bangladesh home and their joint highest successful run chase in World Cups.
With this loss, West Indies are just about hanging on in the World Cup, while Bangladesh have been handed a new lease of life with this incredible win.