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Shafiul stars as Bangladesh seal thriller over England

Bangladesh 227 for 8 (Kayes 60, Shahzad 3-63) beat England 225 (Trott 67, Morgan 63) by two wickets

Shafiul Islam raised Bangladesh’s World Cup campaign from the dead, as he turned yet another astonishing contest on its head with a breathtaking assault in the batting Powerplay to leave England stunned by their fifth cliffhanger in consecutive contests, and facing their own make-or-break encounter with West Indies in Chennai next week.

In another unbearably tense finale, Bangladesh’s ninth-wicket pair of Shafiul and Mahmudullah transformed a futile situation with a glorious blaze of strokeplay, as they turned an asking rate of 57 in 62 balls into an emotional victory with an over to spare. The honour of the winning hit went to Mahmudullah, who belted a Tim Bresnan full-toss through the covers for four to cue pandemonium among the most passionate cricket supporters in the world, but it was Shafiul’s refusal to accept defeat that ultimately paved the way for glory.

On a sluggish track in which runs had, for the most part, to be grafted, England batted first and were bowled out for 225 – a total that was no better than par, and which owed everything to a chalk-and-cheese stand of 109 between Jonathan Trott and the fit-again Eoin Morgan. In reply, however, and in dew-laden conditions that made the ball tricky to grip – particularly for their cantankerous spinner, Graeme Swann – Bangladesh were on cruise control at 155 for 3 in the 31st over, before a calamitous run-out gifted their opponents a way back into the game.

The man who had the game in the palm of his hand was the eventual – and rightful – Man of the Match Imrul Kayes, the less-vaunted of Bangladesh’s opening batsman, who slipstreamed Tamim Iqbal during a captivating 38 from 26 balls that put Bangladesh firmly ahead of the run-rate, before settling down to play the holding role with a chanceless 100-ball 60.

Chanceless, that is, except for his sketchy running between the wickets. For it was his ill-advised decision to take a second run to deep square leg that ended a fourth-wicket stand of 72 with Shakib Al Hasan that looked to have broken the back of England’s resistance. In the next five overs, as Bresnan and Paul Collingwood applied the emergency brake, Bangladesh were limited to seven singles before Shakib – gasping to lift the tempo after a doughty 58-ball innings – aimed a loose sweep at Swann and was bowled for 32.

Mushfiqur Rahim had been virtually strokeless since the run-out, with two runs from 18 deliveries before the re-introduction of Ajmal Shahzad persuaded him to drive expansively through the covers. But one ball later he edged a beauty on off stump through to Matt Prior, and before another run had been added, Shahzad produced another superb delivery to take out Naeem Islam’s off stump for a duck.

It was a near-replica of the delivery that had earlier sent Raqibul Hasan on his way in the same manner, and with eventual figures of 3 for 43, Shahzad was England’s most successful bowler of the day. In between whiles, however, his line had been all over the shop – a performance that too many of his team-mates had been willing to emulate, not least James Anderson, who had borne the brunt of Tamim’s early onslaught, and later served up a dreadful nine-ball first over of the batting Powerplay – including five wides first-ball – to give Bangladesh real belief in the closing stages.

That belief had been ignited by the swinging blade of Shafiul, who turned a bad day for Swann into a dreadful one by leathering his final over for 16, including the only six of the day, over wide long-on. Up until that point, Swann had been more preoccupied with the wet and slippery ball, with Andrew Strauss forced to intervene during a heated row with umpire Daryl Harper, but those blows brought the requirement down to 39 from 48 balls, and brought an abrupt halt to the flow of disgruntled fans who were trooping out of the stadium.

This was the day that Bangladesh had been rehearsing for all through 2010. They got to know England’s cricketers and strategies through the course of back-to-back series at home and away, and having ended their run of 20 consecutive defeats with a tight victory at Bristol in their last-but-one encounter in July, they knew they had what it takes to spring a surprise. But, having collapsed in a heap to be bowled out for 58 in their last World Cup fixture against West Indies, the chance to start from the position of rank outsiders seemed to suit their purposes every bit as much as the favourites’ tag unsettled their opponents.

With the honourable exception of the fit-again Morgan and the unflappable Trott, England simply did not look comfortable at any stage of the day. After losing the toss and being asked to set the agenda, they shipped three tame wickets in the space of their first 17 overs, as they dribbled along to 53 for 3, and though Trott was admirable in grinding out a 99-ball 67, it was Morgan’s departure for 63 to a fine catch by Kayes at backward square that derailed their ambitions of a 250-plus total. Their batting Powerplay once again proved problematic, with 33 runs and two wickets coming in five overs, and from 162 for 3 with 11 overs remaining, England were bowled out for 225 with two balls of their innings remaining.

The left-arm spin of Abdur Razzak was especially impressive. It was he who stunted England’s ambitions with his first-ball removal of Matt Prior (who produced one of the doziest dismissals of the tournament to date, when he set off for a single with the ball already nestled in Mushfiqur’s gloves) and he did not concede a single boundary until Ravi Bopara larruped the third ball of his final over through the covers. Even then, Razzak had the last laugh, as two balls later Bopara tried the same trick and picked out Naeem Islam in the covers.

It was Razzak’s earlier spell that set the tone, however, as he and Naeem squeezed all ambition out of England’s top-order in a boa-like alliance that resulted in 19 singles and nothing else between overs 7 and 17. Strauss reclaimed his status as the tournament’s leading run-scorer in the course of his 31-ball 18, but the fluency that had been the hallmark of his previous performances was nowhere to be seen as he eventually took on a cut shot that was too close to his body, and skidded a fast edge to Junaid Siddique at slip. And then Ian Bell, nominally England’s best player of spin, produced a timid aberration of an innings, which ended with a flaccid flick to short midwicket off Mahmudullah.

England’s own trump spinner couldn’t come close to matching the efforts of Bangladesh’s quartet. Right from his first over, Swann was troubled by the dew-sodden ball and struggled to locate the flight, line and length that had proved so devastating in a similar situation against South Africa last week. England regained a small measure of control when the umpires agreed to a ball-change after 21 overs, and Swann was instantly in the thick of things with a tidy fourth over that went for two runs. However, the more notable aspect of the over was Swann’s petulance when called for a leg-side wide that might have brushed Shakib’s pad. Aside from the extra run, it was a sign that England were getting very seriously rattled.

In the final analysis, however, there could be no quibbling with the result. The only reason that England were even given a chance of victory was that both sides knew of Bangladesh’s tendency to collapse under pressure. Sure enough, the choke when it came was dramatic and could have been game-changing, but thanks to the guts of Shafiul and Mahmudullah, justice was served in the end.

Last week Bangladesh were being showered with brickbats – literally – after a spineless surrender in Dhaka. This evening those same players will be garlanded by a jubilant nation, and with a match against Netherlands still lying in wait, they now have a real chance to propel themselves to the quarter-finals. England, meanwhile, must ride the rollercoaster for the sixth match in succession. Another slip-up, and this time it really will be the end.

Source: ESPNcricinfo
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