Choice of game
The tri-series being played in Dublin gave the perfect excuse to travel across the Irish Sea during the May Day bank holiday weekend. The incentive, to catch sight of potential World Cup stars at close quarters in a laidback setting, was an overwhelming one. Bangladesh and West Indies have been familiar and well-matched foes over recent months, with strong World Cup ambitions. I was excited to see how they would both compete and was hopeful of seeing plenty of runs scored on the relatively small Irish grounds.
I was also hoping for a big improvement in Bangladesh's performance following a disappointing outing against Ireland Wolves a couple of days ago. That game was set against a view of rustic fields in the quaint village of Milverton, about an hour drive north of central Dublin. The venue, somewhat misleadingly named "The Vineyard", which normally plays host to The Hills Cricket Club, stood out for its hospitality - the seemingly endless supply of home-baked scones with clotted cream being a particular highlight!
The Bangladesh-West Indies clash, though, was taking place at Clontarf Cricket Club, in a leafy suburb of Dublin. The ground and adjacent houses were only separated by neatly trimmed hedges, with the prospect of damaged windows from a well-struck six.
The world-record opening stand between Shai Hope and John Campbell on the same ground just a few days ago was always going to be a tall order to surpass or even match. The partnership couldn't be repeated as Campbell wasn't in the starting XI due to a sore back. Hope performed in a similar vein, looking untroubled during a patient start to his innings, accumulating runs at will in a classy manner. His second consecutive century was warmly applauded and when his innings came to an end it looked to me that tiredness had crept into his game, entirely understandable given the number of overs he had batted in his last two innings, besides his wicketkeeping duties.
All of the Bangladesh bowlers chipped in with wickets, Shakib Al Hasan and Mehidy Hasan Miraz initially doing well to slow down the run-scoring and Mashrafe Mortaza picked up three wickets with his clever bowling. The way the bowlers, backed up by astute fielding, sparked a West Indies collapse, was great to watch.
Chasing 262, the opening stand of 144 between Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar meant that the batsmen who came in later were never under pressure to score quickly. Everyone knows what Tamim is capable of and hopefully Soumya's innings will be the start of a consistent run ahead of the World Cup.
As a seasoned follower of the Bangladesh cricket team, I've never been totally convinced of their fielding ability. There certainly are good athletes in the team but all too often fielding displays are typified by lapses and a lack of aggression. I was genuinely surprised by how accomplished they looked in the field in this match; the ground fielding was tidy and the catching in the deep was really impressive. Shakib's full-length dive and catch on the long-off boundary was the standout moment of the fielding display. Moving quickly to his left he expertly pouched a straight hit from Jonathan Carter that looked destined for the boundary boards. The handful of spectators in the stand behind Shakib had an excellent view of the catch, a reward for the grim weather that they had to endure.
One thing I would have changed
The last time I watched these two teams play each other was six months ago. It was a grey and unseasonably cool day in Sylhet, Bangladesh. This prompted a good amount of grumbling from me. However, the weather conditions in Dublin were in an altogether different league. During my entire stay, I'm convinced the temperature never reached double figures. Biting winds coming off the Irish Sea coupled with skies in varying shades of grey made it for testing conditions.
The players appeared to find it equally uncomfortable. The Bangladesh team were in several layers of clothing, including woolly hats and gloves during practice. During the game against Ireland Wolves, I even spotted the Bangladesh team management returning from a hastily arranged shopping trip with several bags of thermal clothing. They can only hope that the weather drastically improves. In any case, the conditions experienced in Ireland will certainly help them acclimatise and be ready to face the vagaries of the weather in the United Kingdom.
I would also have changed the scheduling of the game. By playing a day after the Monday bank holiday, Cricket Ireland surely missed out on the prospect of more spectators filling the stands. Curiously all of Bangladesh's fixtures in the tri-series fall on weekdays with Ireland and West Indies facing each other on the weekends. Perhaps it was felt that the West Indies players would draw in the crowds, but I noticed plenty of interest among the sizeable Bangladeshi community.
As mentioned, the poor weather combined with the weekday schedule meant that only a very moderate number of spectators turned out. As the day progressed the few spectators that were in the stands became even fewer as they sought shelter from the increasingly oppressive chill.
Marks out of 10
This was a surprisingly routine victory for Bangladesh and I enjoyed in particular their bowling and fielding display. The terrible weather was the only thing that detracted from my enjoyment. I'll certainly be watching cricket in Dublin again, although next time I hope it will be in the mid-July heat!