Brilliant Bangladesh stun India
It might be tempting to call it one of the biggest upsets, but the manner in which Bangladesh pulled the rug from under India's feet at Port-of-Spain, for their third win in World Cup games, came with a touch of the inevitable. Mashrafe Mortaza inspired a clockwork bowling effort, helped largely by a slew of sloppy strokes, before three teenagers displayed confidence, verve and composure beyond their years to turn a tricky chase into a stroll, winning by five wickets.
To lay the entire blame on Rahul Dravid, for choosing to bat first on a juicy pitch, will be foolhardy. India were confronted by an efficient bowling attack and crumbled, first against Mortaza and then against a group of zippy left-arm spinners. Sourav Ganguly's half-century lent some sort of respectability but during the run-chase, India were upstaged by a trio that has a combined experience of 35 games and an average age of 18.
Tamim Iqbal, the youngest member of the side and in just his fifth one-dayer, led the charge of the youth brigade with an audacious 53-ball 51, oozing confidence from every pore and charging the fast bowlers with gusto. What followed was a clinical finish, led by Saqibul Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, two batsmen widely touted as the stars of the next generation. Their 84-run stand - laced with cool and class - clinched the victory. With nine deliveries left, Mushfiqur caressed Munaf Patel through the covers to trigger off joyous celebrations at the Queens Park Oval.
Tamim's approach encapsulated Bangladesh's poise. He copped a vicious blow on the neck, when he attempted to take on Zaheer Khan's shorter one, but responded with a brand of rapacious strokes straight out of the Sanath Jayasuriya textbook. The shot of the day, if not the shot of the tournament so far, came in the 11th over, when he charged down the track to Zaheer and blitzed an almighty pull way over midwicket. The temerity behind the stroke symbolised Bangladesh's day.
India's toothless bowling attack, barring a good opening spell from Munaf, was accompanied by some sloppy fielding - dropping two sitters and two half-chances. It was a stark contrast to Bangladesh's effort on the field, when they pounced and dived around like panthers on a prowl. Tamim's dismissal, followed by Aftab Ahmed's wicket soon after, reduced Bangladesh to 79 for 3 but Bangladesh unleashed a couple of relative unknowns who arrived on the biggest stage and came into their own.
Mushfiqur, the 18-year-old wicketkeeper selected over the experienced Khaled Mashud, displayed tremendous composure, during his 107-ball 56. It was clear that his primary role was to blunt the new-ball threat and he went about his task in an accomplished manner. There were some wonderful moments of dash as well - a couple of sixes off the spinners, lofting straight with a neat swing of the bat, showed his aggressive capabilities - but the signature moments were when he pierced the gaps and hustled the quick singles.
Saqibul opened out a bit more freely - pinging the square boundary with some electric drives - and reeled off a couple of gorgeous straight hits of Munaf in his second spell. A half-century capped off a fine allround performance, after he'd done his bit with his left-arm spinners earlier in the day. He wasn't rewarded with a wicket but he maintained the pressure at one end as Mohammad Rafique and Abdur Razzak, the other two left-arm menaces, snared six victims between them.
It was Mortaza, though, who was at the heart of the impressive performance. He hit the straps straight away, extracting considerable movement from the pitch and skidding it through at around 130 kph. He removed Virender Sehwag in his second over, jagging one back from outside off and forcing him to play on, before gobbling up a reckless Robin Uthappa. He returned for his second spell, nailed a wicket off the first ball - Ajit Agarkar edging limply to the wicketkeeper - and finished it with the wicket of Munaf in the final over. It was a Man-of-the-Match winning performance as he punished India for their blasé approach.
The spinners complemented him beautifully. Razzak began the choke with a peach of an arm-ball to get rid of Sachin Tendulkar - foxing him with the straighter one and seeing the ball deflect off the inside edge and pad before bobbing up for the wicketkeeper. Rafique picked up the baton with a characteristically efficient spell. He teased out Dravid with a straighter one that was crashing into leg, tempted Ganguly into the big shot, and out-thought Mahendra Singh Dhoni with a wide delivery [the batsman was made to look foolish when he slashed straight to short third man].
India's most promising moments of the day arrived when Ganguly and Yuvraj got them out of trouble. Ganguly's was a cautious effort, managing only four fours in a 129-ball knock, but he had no other option than to drop anchor. This was his fourth half-century against Bangladesh in as many games and he appeared more comfortable against the left-arm spinners than the rest. Yuvraj's 47 was a more aggressive knock, cracking three fours and a six, but he fell just when there was a chance to step it up. It pretty much summed up the day - India missing out on the openings and Bangladesh seizing the moments brilliantly.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo