U-19s create history
The Bangladesh under-19s yesterday made history by becoming the first cricket team from the nation to reach the semifinals of an ICC event when they beat Nepal in the ICC Under-19 World Cup quarterfinal. The Young Tigers beat Nepal by six wickets in a game that was more complicated than it looked on paper before the sides took the field in the pressure cauldron of the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
The Bangladesh youngsters would have learnt a valuable lesson from the hard-fought match -- at times it is not just skills that matter when faced with a pressure test. It was a test that they passed with flying colours. They were pitted against a side that they were expected to beat quite easily and in addition, it was the first time that they played in front of such a crowd.
While the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium was not full, there were three packed galleries with thousands of spectators expecting the hosts to cruise through. The pressure was on.
The visitors -- who had nothing to lose -- made things a lot more difficult after they put in a feisty performance of their own. Led by their skipper Raju Rijal's 80-ball 72, they posted 211, their second highest total of the competition.
Faced with a task that all of a sudden seemed mountainous, Bangladesh's top-order crumbled. It seemed as though the initial plan was to spend as much time at the wicket as possible.
However, as the required run-rate increased, the plan backfired. Saif Hassan lost his patience and got trapped while attempting to play across the line. Joyraz Sheikh and Pinak Ghosh put on a 46-run stand for the second wicket to calm the nerves. However, a mix-up in the 20th over led to the run-out of Pinak.
Two wickets followed in close succession. Nazmul Hossain Shanto, their best batsman gifted a wicket to leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichchane, as he got out caught-and-bowled in the 23rd over. Five overs later Joyraz was trapped in front by a quicker delivery.
Nothing seemed to be going the hosts' way. They would have lost these wickets a lot earlier had the Nepali fielders made the most of Bangladesh's poor running between the wickets.
In the middle at that crucial juncture was Zakir Hassan and skipper Mehedi Hasan Miraz with the team score at a dangerous 98 for 4 in 29 overs.
If the top order was a disappointment, then the way these two battled against pressure with a 117-run stand and took the team home was an act that was quite exemplary.
It was a partnership that saw the teenagers think like seasoned cricketers as they calculated their moves almost flawlessly.
The boundaries were shelved and all they focused on were singles and doubles. While Zakir was busy cutting and chopping, Mehedi drove down the ground as frequently as possible.
Mehedi, who seemed a tad nervous, received a let-off in the 38th over when he was deceived by the flight. The wicketkeeper though failed to stump him.
By the time the 40th over arrived, Bangladesh required 68 runs. And once that equation was brought down to 37 off the last six overs, the shots began to flow. Both batsmen were completely set by then and took on the bowling.
Zakir finished the game in style with a four and a six off the first two balls of the 48th over to finish the game.
He finished on 75, scored off 77 balls while Miraz remained unbeaten on 55.
It was a tense finish, but it was something that the Junior Tigers needed in order to get the nervousness out of their system.
Nepal, on the other hand, will bow out of the competition with plenty of credit. The way they strangled the hosts in their own den for large parts of the game clearly shows the immense potential that lies within the Himalayan nation.