Shot selection bordering on the bizarre
If Pakistan showed earlier in the day how a cool head and calculated approach can make a challenging run-chase against a top bowling attack appear easy, Bangladesh, later in the evening, offered a lesson in how not to plan a run-chase. In a match where both sides showed a frenetic approach to batting with little rewards, Sri Lanka kept it together better in the field and managed to remain in the hunt for a semi-final berth.
The Twenty20 format by default encourages risk-taking, but some of the shot-making by both teams bordered on the bizarre. Sri Lanka were so choked by the slow bowling that they only managed ten fours and two sixes in the entire innings. Mahela Jayawardene, usually one of the most pleasing batsmen to watch, played the kind of scrappy innings that typified the entire match.
Throughout his 30-ball stint, he struggled badly for timing, often abandoning his natural style, which is all about touch and wristy strokeplay, and trying to bludgeon blows. He survived two catches, one run-out chance, and played several ungainly hoicks, most of them mistimed. The way he shook his head in dismay as he was walking back after being dismissed told the story of a batsman who was anything but happy with the way he had played.
Bangladesh, to their credit, bowled with excellent control - and their slow bowlers showed once again that the conditions here are ideal for bowlers who don't give the batsmen much pace to work with. Unfortunately, that was the only aspect of their game which was of international class. The fielding had too many holes - Mushfiqur Rahim's freak catch was a moment to cheer, but he missed a couple of other chances, while the rest of the fielding and catching was far too patchy.
Bangladesh have for long had problems deciding on the right pace for an innings. Against South Africa it was gung-ho and frenetic in the extreme,
while against Australia it was so becalmed there was a danger of the
innings going completely run-less
Where they let themselves down the most, though, was with the bat. Bangladesh have for long had problems deciding on the right pace for an innings. Against South Africa it was gung-ho and frenetic in the extreme, while against Australia it was so becalmed there was a danger of the innings going completely run-less. In both those games, though, they were batting first, which gave them the excuse of not knowing what sort of a target to aim at.
Here, though, there were no such issues. Sri Lanka had only managed 147, and an asking rate of 7.40 could have been achieved with some planning and a methodical approach - for reference, all they needed to do was follow Pakistan's approach from a couple of hours back.
Instead, Bangladesh - as they have often done in ODIs as well - went for the death-or-glory approach. Thus Aftab Ahmed carved three sensational fours within six balls of coming to the crease, and then, in a pattern that has become depressingly familiar, finished with an innings that had lasted less than two overs. Batsman after batsman followed the same approach, as if the aim was to finish it off in 15 overs. In the end they did finish it off in 15.5, but hardly in the manner they would have liked.
Sri Lanka will happily take this result, which makes their match against Australia on Thursday a virtual quarter-final. That the two teams that contested the World Cup final five months back are battling for a semi-final berth in this tournament tells its own story.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo