Bangladesh slip to massive defeat at New Zealand's hands
It was by far the most inconsequential match of the tournament. With all four semi-finalists spotted, New Zealand and Bangladesh - both knocked out of the tournament early - clashed, if that is the word, at the Sinhalese Sports Club grounds.
Fans stayed away from the cricket almost entirely, and it would be fair to say that the media and officials far outnumbered the few faithful. As it turned out, New Zealand coasted to a comfortable 167-run consolation win, scoring 244/9 and then skittling Bangladesh for 77.
After the dazzling Indian fireworks of Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly against England, the Kiwi batting line-up was a damp squib. The departure of Nathan Astle (5) early, caught by Alok Kapali off the bowling of Manjural Islam, meant that New Zealand struggled after being asked to bat first.
Although there was little in the Bangladesh attack in terms of penetration, one could understand the difficulty the Kiwi batsmen would have had in motivating themselves to come out all guns blazing. While many batsmen got starts, none stayed in long enough to make a half-century other than Matthew Sinclair. A painstaking and patient innings rather than a flashy one saw Sinclair make 70 (122 balls, five fours) and bolster the middle-order.
Chris Harris and Scott Styris made 26 apiece and Jacob Oram chipped in with 30 to take New Zealand through to 244/9 off 50 overs. Although not an imposing total, there were enough runs on the board for the New Zealand bowlers to fancy an early finish and some respite from the oppressive sun beating down on Colombo.
For Bangladesh, Mohammad Rafique with one for 39 from 10 overs and Mohammad Ashraful, three for 26 from five overs were the bowling heroes. Ashraful's leg-breaks were particularly effective, taking key wickets in the middle order.
When Bangladesh came out to reply to the New Zealand score they would have been buoyed by the fact that they restricted the opposition to just 244. Any joy, however, would have been extremely short-lived.
Shane Bond, opening the bowling from the South End, jagged the ball back dramatically from the beginning. It is worth remembering that Glenn McGrath had destroyed the New Zealand team with his fiery spell of three for 37 from this very end. While not quite being in the same class as McGrath, Bond showed that he could make the ball talk, given just a bit of help from the wicket.
Putting the ball in the right places - just short of a length and jagging it in towards the top of off stump, or pushing it a little fuller and wider, tempting the batsmen to drive, Bond enjoyed great success.
Javed Omar, opening the innings was rapped on the pads and survived two vociferous appeals for lbw in the first over before managing a single and escaping to the non-striker's end. Al-Sahariar, however, did not have the wisdom to learn from his partner's experience. Padding up to Bond, Al-Sahariar was trapped plumb in front of the stumps off the very first ball he faced. The 24-year old, who has three half-centuries from 11 Tests, has had an eminently forgettable tournament, facing just three balls for two ducks.
Following the fall of the first wicket, New Zealand gave a fine exhibition of slip catching. Bond kept the ball on the right spot, batsmen dutifully poked outside the off stump and the edges flew towards the slip cordon. And the Kiwis were faster than any ball that hurtled towards them.
Nathan Astle began the pyrotechnics, leaping into the air like a gymnast about to do a back flip, and plucking the ball out of the air left-handed at full stretch just as it went past him. Javed Omar supplied that particular edge.
Soon after, Mohammad Ashraful guided Bond to Styris at third slip, where the all-rounder fumbled the ball but held on to the catch.
From then on there were few variations. Alok Kapali (2) and Khaled Mashud (1) presented Stephen Fleming and Lou Vincent with catches behind the wicket and Bangladesh looked down the barrel at 19/5.
Tushar Imran, who showed some pluck in Bangladesh's first game in this tournament, once again resisted bravely, tonking four boundaries in his 16-ball 20. Then, he too fell to the caught-at-slip bug, tickling Oram to Astle.
Khaled Mahmud (11) and Fahim Muntasir (5) gave Kyle Mills two quick wickets, once again edging behind the wicket.
Mohammad Rafique, then, broke the monotony when he short-arm jabbed Daniel Vettori to Harris fielding in the deep on the leg-side. Well, he broke the monotony to the extent that he was not caught behind; the stream of wickets gushed rather than trickled, with the ninth wicket falling on 70.
Bangladesh threatened to beat their lowest one-day total - 76 against Sri Lanka here at the SSC. On the day, however, they avoided that ignominy - only just, being all out for 77 in 19.3 overs.
The New Zealand bowlers will keep a copy of this scorecard close at hand. Whenever they get a pasting, whenever the wickets elude, they can gaze at this card, and the blues will swiftly ebb. Bond (four for 21), Mills (two for 13) and Vettori (two for 10) were three people who enjoyed this game to the hilt.