Bangladesh v South Africa, Super Eights, Guyana

Ashraful's fine-leg flamboyance

S Rajesh and HR Gopalakrishna

April 7, 2007

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Mohammad Ashraful played this stroke three times, and got fours on each occasion © AFP
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In seven previous ODIs against South Africa, Bangladesh hadn't even put in a hint of a fight - they had batted first four times, and lost twice by ten wickets, and once each by nine and seven wickets; they had chased on three occasions, and lost by more than 80 runs each time. Importantly, though, is that the two teams last met more than 30 months ago, in the Champions Trophy in 2004. Plenty has changed since then, and in conditions that were ideal for slow bowling the Bangladesh bowlers completely dominated proceedings.

It started, though, much before Bangladesh took the field. Their highest opening stand in the seven previous matches against South Africa was 26; here, they were separated only after 42 runs had been added. But the real impetus only came when Mohammad Ashraful decided to take charge. He started off slowly, scoring just 12 off his first 24 deliveries, but when he finally opened out, the display of strokeplay was quite breathtaking.

Easily the most audacious stroke was the paddle shot he played repeatedly off the fast bowlers, getting down on one knee and paddling it over short fine leg, not once but three times. As the table of his scoring zone shows, he scored 20 runs in the fine-leg region, all through boundaries.

Where Ashraful scored his runs
Region Runs Fours
Third man 12 0
Point 15 2
Cover 9 1
Mid-off 3 0
Mid-on 10 1
Midwicket 14 3
Square leg 4 0
Fine leg 20 5

Ashraful was especially ruthless against the three specialist fast bowlers, scoring 58 runs from 43 balls against Andre Nel, Charl Langeveldt and Makhaya Ntini, whose speed was ideal on a pitch lacking in pace and bounce. South Africa were also hurt badly by their inability to staunch the runs towards the end - the last seven overs leaked 70 as the bowlers completely lost the plot. Ashraful's magnificent 87 was his second half-century in five ODIs against South Africa, and it lifts his average against them to 32.40, more than ten runs above his career average.

Bangladesh's total of 251 for 8 is their third-highest against a Test-playing team when batting first - both their previous higher efforts came against Zimbabwe. It was always likely to be a difficult run-chase for South Africa, and Bangladesh's bowlers - and especially their spinners - ensured that it wasn't even close. Just how difficult for the South African batsmen can be gleaned from the fact that they managed nine fours in their entire innings; Ashraful struck 12 in his 83-ball knock.

Other highlights

  • Bangladesh's total is their highest in the World Cup, going past their previous best of 223 for 9 against Pakistan in 1999.

  • South Africa's 184, on the other hand, is their lowest total in a completed innings in the World Cup. Their previous lowest was 185, against Zimbabwe at Chelmsford in 1999.

  • Ashraful's 87 is the best by a Bangladesh batsman in the World Cup, bettering Minhajul Abedin's 68 not out against Scotland at Edinburgh in 1999. It is also eighth half-century by a Bangladesh batsman in World Cups.

  • Andrew Nel's 5 for 45 is his best bowling figures in ODIs, and the first time he has taken a five-for. It is also the second instance of a five-wicket haul in this World Cup, after Charl Langeveldt's 5 for 39 against Sri Lanka at the same venue.

  • It is also the seventh instance of a bowler finishing on the losing side after taking five wickets in World Cup matches. The other six bowlers who have suffered this fate are Gary Gilmour, Kapil Dev, Ashantha de Mel, Saqlain Mushtaq, Rudi van Vuuren and Shane Bond.

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    S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
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