The morning after serving notice of their prowess by completely outclassing West Indies, a happy Bangladesh squad boarded the bus from their team hotel in Taunton towards Nottingham at 11:00 am yesterday. The next challenge for Bangladesh in their World Cup campaign is facing five-time champions Australia on June 20 at Trent Bridge.
The Tigers emphatically put their aspirations to reach a maiden World Cup semifinal back on track by turning a chase of 321 against West Indies into a cakewalk -- winning with 8.3 overs left -- through two sublime innings from Shakib Al Hasan and Liton Das on Monday. Even though rain resumed in Taunton yesterday, the 15 Bangladesh players and the coaching staff appeared to put the gloom of the nine days leading into the match behind them.
After a winning start to the campaign against South Africa on June 2, the Tigers suffered a stutter against New Zealand and were then blown away by a rampant England on June 8. The gloom truly descended when the match against lower-ranked Sri Lanka was washed out in Bristol on June 11. That made the match against West Indies a virtual must-win encounter, and relief and joy of winning it in such a clinical manner was reflected in the content -- if slightly weary from late-night addas -- faces of the players the following morning.
Shakib, skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad all had their families with them as they boarded the bus with smiles on their faces. Tamim Iqbal also cut a happy figure as the opener had found some form and was looking dangerous against West Indies. However, one suspects that Tamim -- who puts immense pressure on himself to perform -- would have been even happier if his innings was not cut short on a 53-ball 48 by a phenomenal piece of fielding from Sheldon Cottrell, who ran the batsman out after fielding off his own bowling.
After two losses, two wins and a washout, fifth-placed Bangladesh now need to win three of their next four matches to stand a realistic chance of making the semifinals. Although the road is still a tough one, the Tigers will go to Nottingham knowing that this group of players had answered most questions presented to them. Along with Tamim regaining some confidence, skipper Mashrafe also silenced critics by being the most economical bowler on display, conceding at 4.62 per over even as West Indies ran up a big total. They also have a new performer in Liton, and if he continues in a similar vein at number five, Bangladesh’s top six will be a complete one.
Although Bangladesh have never beaten Australia in a World Cup match -- they had never beaten West Indies either -- the Tigers reached Nottingham yesterday evening confident in the knowledge that they have most areas covered for the coming challenges.