Bangladesh remain stubbornly in the rear-view mirror of the World Cup’s fancied four and appear determined not to give up the chase.
Inspired by another magnificent all-round display by Shakib Al Hasan, they defeated Afghanistan here to move within a single point of England ahead of the host nation’s crunch meeting with Australia at Lord’s on Tuesday.
And fittingly for a side nicknamed The Tigers, they are stalking in the tournament long grass ready to pounce on any of the leading sides who slip up in the denouement of this long group phase.
Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh celebrates taking the wicket of Afghanistan’s Gulbadin Naib
Mushfiqur Rahim of Bangladesh celebrates getting his half century against Afghanistan
Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib takes off his helmet in disgust after losing his wicket
It could well be the law of the jungle for England if they lose to the old enemy now.
While it’s true that Bangladesh will likely have to defeat India at Edgbaston next Tuesday and Pakistan at Lord’s three days after that to reach the semi-finals, they remain capable of disrupting the established order.
It was another day for Shakib, rightly considered the world’s best all-rounder at the moment, to pluck the many strings to his cricketing bow. He made 51 off 69 balls with the bat – the Bangladesh-dominated crowd in Southampton disappointed when he was trapped lbw – and then returned tournament-best figures of 10-1-29-5.
India’s Yuvraj Singh – against Ireland in 2011 – is the only other man to take five wickets and hit 50 in a World Cup contest. Many neutrals and cricketing romantics are desperate for Afghanistan to win at least one match at this World Cup but Bangladesh had no time for such sentiment. Their 62-run victory was richly deserved.
Afghanistan set a very slow pace in their run chase, and couldn’t get the runs they required
Having put Bangladesh in to bat, Afghanistan’s bowlers did brilliantly to squeeze the flow of runs during the middle overs before their opponents eventually managed to free themselves of the shackles late on.
It was Mujeeb Ur Rahman who truly shone for Afghanistan, taking three wickets in all after gaining the early breakthrough of Liton Das, who miscued a drive to extra cover where Hashmatullah Shahidi managed to get enough fingers under the ball in a low take.
Shakib and Tamim Iqbal built with their fourth consecutive 50 partnership in one-day matches before Mohammad Nabi managed to fool Tamim with a slower ball that hit top of middle and off stump. Shakib, enjoying a quite wonderful World Cup, successfully reviewed one lbw dismissal before once again passing 50 and Australia’s David Warner as the tournament’s leading runscorer.
Bangladesh supporters celebrate as their bowlers take yet another Afghanistan wicket
But he succumbed on 51 for the day and 476 for the World Cup when Mujeeb did him with a disguised delivery that cut back in and rapped Shakib’s pads in front of middle stump. His dismissal saw Bangladesh hit trouble. Soumya Sarkar became Mujeeb’s third victim and Mahmudullah, his calf heavily bandaged, was hobbling down the wicket for singles.
He didn’t come out to field. There was no respite because Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan and Dawlat Zadran offered hardly any scoring opportunities to the boundary. Indeed, between overs 25 and 37, Bangladesh didn’t strike a single four or six in 73 balls. Luckily, Mushfiqur Rahim had been ticking along and he cleared the rope to finally end that torturous wait and bring up his half-century.
It was only at the death that Bangladesh were able to lift their total closer to expectations. Mushfiqur cut loose before falling for 83 off 87, while Mosaddek Hossain added gloss with a swift 35 off 24.
Bangladesh move up to three wins in the tournament, while Afghanistan still haven’t won one
Each boundary brought the colourful and enthusiastic Bangladesh crowd, waving the national flag and holding aloft cuddly tigers, to their feet. Their passion has certainly illuminated this World Cup.
Afghanistan, determined to claim their first win of the tournament and their second in World Cup history, set out with impressive intent. With Rahmat Shah opening for the first time alongside Gulbaddin Shah, there was an early flurry of boundaries before Rahmat fell softly for 24, slicing to mid-on off the irrepressible Shakib.
It halted Afghanistan’s early momentum and now it was Bangladesh delighting in putting the squeeze on with Mosaddek and Mehidy Hasan turning the screw. If the aim was to bore the batsmen out, it worked with Hashmatullah, who was almost run out earlier in the over he was stumped by Mushfiqur having shuffled impatiently down the track.
Shakib Al Hasan led the Bangladesh line with an excellent all-round performance on Monday
He is the only batsmen to have twice been stumped in this tournament. Gulbadin was inching towards his half-century before falling victim to a cunning plan by Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza. Attempting to drive, the Afghan opener shot straight to Liton, positioned at short extra cover, to take a sharp ankle-height catch.
Shakib claimed his third victim later that over, bowling Mohammad Nabi through the gate, and with the run rate well over seven-an-over and rising, Afghanistan were disintegrating.
All Bangladesh had to do was keep building the pressure of dot balls. Asghar Afghan reached 20 before losing patience, slog-sweeping Shakib to be caught in the deep.
There was a little resistance from Najibullah Zadran and Samiullah Shinwari before the former was stumped to become Shakib’s fifth victim. It was the first time a Bangladesh player had taken five wickets at the World Cup.