Unless the stars align, they pull off an unlikely win over India -- assuming they get past Afghanistan on Monday -- and a more likely one against Pakistan, Bangladesh are not going to make it to the semifinals of the 2019 World Cup. That may be a bitter pill to swallow for many of Bangladesh’s passionate fans, but when the dust settles on this World Cup, even if the July 5 league game against Pakistan is the last match Bangladesh play in the mega event, there will be more positives than negatives to take home.
The Tigers have lost three of six matches so far. Those three matches were against World Cup favourites England, Australia and a genuine contender in New Zealand. Bangladesh were outplayed in just one of those reversals -- when England posted 386 for six and bundled Bangladesh out for 280. They almost won the match against New Zealand, who won by two wickets. Even though the eventual margin against Australia was a 48-run defeat on Thursday, the Tigers were very much in the match for 95 of the 100 overs despite conceding 381 for five. And against an opponent that they have never really challenged except one win in Cardiff 14 years ago, that they went toe to toe with the defending champions will certainly be a confidence booster.
Even as Bangladesh were on their way to conceding the mammoth total, their body language had not dropped. Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman could be seen enjoying themselves and laughing as the score passed 350.
While cynical fans would have thought in the past that visible enjoyment during a struggle betrayed a lack of sincerity, it is hard to level that allegation against this team, especially after what followed in Bangladesh’s chase. Just by reading the scorecards, the England match and the Australia match may seem similar -- big total conceded, a run chase containing one century (Shakib against England and Mushfiqur Rahim against Australia) and a margin of defeat that suggested that the match was not close.
In reality, the matches were poles apart. As mentioned, Bangladesh were in the contest for much of the game and only after Mahmudullah Riyad was out in the 46th over did it seem that the match had escaped the Tigers’ grasp.
In the match against England, Bangladesh had reached 169 for two in the 29th over with Shakib and Mushfiqur at the crease. After the match, Shakib said that the target was to get between 180 and 200 for one or two wickets in 30 overs and then reassess the situation. Although Bangladesh were near the initial target, Mushfiqur’s wicket left Shakib to play a lone hand as the rest imploded around him.
Against Australia, Bangladesh lost wickets at crucial times -- Shakib left at 102 after a 79-run stand with Tamim Iqbal, who left Mushfiqur’s company soon after with the score on 144 for three. Liton Das departed to make it 175 for four in the 30th over -- nowhere near the ideal launching pad for chasing a total past 350. It was then that Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur proved that this Bangladesh side were no longer panicking during a chase of 350-plus, which they knew would be a regular possibility in this World Cup. That is what Shakib had said after his century and Liton’s 94 shot them past a 321-run target in just 41.3 overs against the West Indies on Monday -- that the lack of panic was the best thing about the chase.
While England taught hard lessons and West Indies provided the confidence, the good thing from Bangladesh’s point of view is that both those diverging influences were utilised against Australia.
Bangladesh have long since ceased being a team that revels in respect earned despite a loss. However, as the team were leaving Nottingham for Southampton yesterday, there seemed to be little disappointment on the faces of the players. Perhaps, like Shakib and Mustafizur near the end of the Aussie innings, they know that there is still some cricket to be played and they have the belief that they can overcome setbacks.