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"It is totally wrong to label us minnows," says Mohammad Ashraful Bangladesh's wonderful victory that sent West Indies packing
Edward Craig in Johannesburg
September 13, 2007
"It is totally wrong to label us minnows," says Mohammad Ashraful after his exhilarating innings and Bangladesh's wonderful victory. And he's got a point. From the very first ball of the match, Bangladesh looked on top and likely winners because they brought the one thing missing from that extraordinary opening match - variety.
With Mushfiqur Rahmin standing up to the left-arm seam of Syed Razel, who used the excess moisture (thrown into the pitch by an over-zealous groundsman) to jag the ball away, this was a complete contrast to the medium-paced South African attack. Chris Gayle was caught in the gully third ball and Syed bowled straight through his spell taking 1 for 10 including a wicket maiden. These are match-winning figures.
But you have to back this up and - as Zimbabwe demonstrated - in this shortened version of the game, fielding well and staying disciplined can keep you in the match for longer. And if you are still in the match, even if you need 12 off six balls, you can pick up the odd victory. Bangladesh's fielding was superb - apart from one blemish when Aftab Ahmed dropped Shivnarine Chanderpaul. They kept discipline, bowling sensibly and slowly to a line and length.
West Indies had no particular answer. Chanderpaul swiped a couple of huge sixes, Marlon Samuels, with a runner - almost summing up the chaotic nature of the West Indian display -whacked a few more as did Dwayne Smith but their running, urgency and general desire in the face of an awkward challenge seemed wanting.
But isn't this tournament interesting? Just as the English county cricketers have been saying till they're bored with it, spin and lack of pace wins Twenty20 matches. See Australia, see West Indies - just look at Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. This is a great development because it not only leads to the odd upset but actually makes certain minnows viable contenders for the trophy. Everyone had better be wary of Bangladesh. Big boys may bully these teams at Test level, where all that matters is 20 wickets. Take that out of the equation and magnify the importance of fielding and any well-drilled side can compete.
West Indies head home because of their poor discipline. They dropped catches, they misfielded, they bowled wides and no balls in excess. Their batting was poor as soon as patience and hard running was required. Big sixes do win games but they need to be the finishing touches to an innings built on singles and placement.
And why is Chris Gayle not captain? He did a fantastic job recently in England, reinvigorated a jaded side, gave them a sense of purpose and, most importantly, enjoyment. This team were ragged and apparently uncaring.
All this dwells on West Indies failings when, in truth, Bangladesh's simple gameplan - bowl length, field well, hit and run hard - is what won it. They came into this match and this tournament with a plan, each member of the team knowing his role. And they also have talent to back it up; Ashraful's innings was one of complete adventure, hooking, flicking and driving - while Aftab Ahmed played a perfect anchor role, even if his unbeaten 62 off 49 balls suggests he was more explosive.
This tournament has achieved what the ICC has been trying to do for years, made every team competitive. Ashraful backs this up: "We have been beating big teams regularly over the last year and when people say it is an upset or a one-off it doesn't make sense. We have made the Super 8s in two big tournaments this year and it is about time they stop calling us a minnow. There is more to come from Bangladesh."
Bangladesh will make the semi-finals, you read it here first.
A collection of fine cricket writing on great cricket feats, and never mind the omissions
Plays of the Day from the first ODI between South Africa and India in Johannesburg