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March 18, 2008
Shahriar Nafees struck a fluent unbeaten 90 while Mohammad Ashraful signalled his return to form with 64 not out as Bangladesh avenged their 2007 World Cup loss to Ireland with a convincing eight-wicket win in Mirpur. More importantly for Bangladesh, it was their first ODI victory after a run of 14 losses and the under-fire Ashraful's first as captain.
Bangladesh were off to a blazing start with Tamim Iqbal blasting two successive boundaries through the covers off seamer Kevin O'Brien. Nafees, after picking a couple of runs off the first delivery that he faced, cut Dave Langford-Smith past point to get his innings going. Langford-Smith drew first blood for Ireland in the fifth over, as Tamim sliced the ball to Greg Thompson at point. Nafees did not let that affect his intent, striking three fours in a single over bowled by Langford-Smith, who, despite an early wicket, struggled to maintain a consistent line.
Trent Johnson, the Ireland captain, found success in his first over when Aftab Ahmed drove straight to Reinhardt Strydom at mid-on. The Bangladesh batsmen were once again showing signs of ineptitude, similar to their performance against South Africa, but the arrival of Ashraful brought calm to the proceedings. Ashraful, having made 45 runs in five innings, took 13 balls to get off the mark with a cut through backward point as Andre Botha pitched one wide. He then cut Johnston through the covers first ball off the next over.
In the mean time, Nafees, who was looking solid at the crease, brought up his fifty off 75 balls when he glanced Kyle McCallan down the leg side for two. Nafees and Ashraful adopted a steady approach against the spin combine of McCallan and Thompson, and were content with the singles and twos. Ashraful reached fifty with a quick single off Thompson, and four balls later, Nafees rocked back and cut the same bowler past the covers to bring up the century stand.
With a win all but inevitable, the pair opened out against Langford-Smith in the 37th over: Ashraful played two identical cover drives and Nafees followed suit with a superb off-drive. Nafees then whipped Alex Cusack through midwicket to seal victory with 61 balls to spare.
Earlier, the Bangladesh bowlers, led by three wickets from Mashrafe Mortaza, who received the Man-of-the-Match award, restricted Ireland to 185 for 7. The spin quartet did well to keep Ireland down to 115 for 6 till the 35th over before a lower-order revival by Cusack and Johnston gave the visitors a more respectable total.
Mortaza, the lone seamer, set Ireland back by dismissing the openers - both edged to the 'keeper, Dhiman Ghosh. Niall O'Brien, Ireland's in-form player, began in earnest with two fours and a six but failed to carry on after making a start, driving straight to Farhad Reza at cover. Eoin Morgan and Kevin staged a recovery of sorts with a stand of 38 for the fourth wicket before Morgan played all over a yorker from Reza. Kevin fell soon after - trapped on the sweep to Shakib Al Hasan - and Ireland were in trouble at 97 for 5.
Following Botha's run-out four overs later, Johnston and Cusack added 65 to prop Ireland. Cusack played a patient knock of 38 off 61 balls before falling victim to Mortaza in the final over, who finished with an impressive 3 for 22, including four maidens. Johnston remained unbeaten on 31.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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