Plays of the day

God bats for Bangladesh and Nel resumes normal service

Dileep Premachandran in Guyana

April 7, 2007

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Breathtaking rally: Tamim Iqbal's forehand smash over Charl Langeveldt's head would have put Steffi Graf or Jim Courier to shame © Getty Images
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Expensive change: He may be a destructive hitter, but Justin Kemp's medium pace has never looked international class. And when Graeme Smith called on him for the 36th over, Bangladesh seized the moment. Aftab Ahmed sent one sailing over long leg, and then pounded out another magnificent stroke over midwicket. The run rate jumped over four, and Bangladesh rarely had a chance to look back.

Pump up the volume: After routing India at Durban with a spell of 4 for 13, Andrè Nel had played only five more times for South Africa. When thrown the ball today, his impact was immediate. Javed Omar slashed one to gully, and Nel's frenzied pumped-fist celebrations - you sometimes fear he'll burst a vein - were typical of a man who should be playing every game.

Paddle away into the distance: Mohammad Ashraful played some scintillating strokes in his 87, but none more so than the paddle sweeps where he walked across outside off stump and sent the ball to the fine-leg fence with a deft twirl of the wrists. To pull it off once was audacious, to repeat it just stupendous.

Beaten for pace?: Most new-ball bowlers revel in pushing batsmen on to the back foot with pace. Syed Rasel does the opposite. At times on Saturday, he was so slow through the air that the batsmen could have changed strokes twice. Smith almost did before getting bowled, and Kallis lofted one straight to mid-on. As Neil Manthorp said on the radio, "He's perhaps the only new-ball bowler who gets batsmen out with his lack of pace."

Bullseye: As long as Shaun Pollock and Herschelle Gibbs, South Africa's most accomplished players of spin, were at the crease, there was always a faint glimmer of hope. That was extinguished when Tamim Iqbal pounced at mid-off and arrowed in a throw at the bowler's end to catch Pollock a few inches short. Indians and Pakistanis, with their geriatric, useless fielders, watched and wept.

Forty love: Iqbal's tendency to give bowlers the charge cost him eventually, but there was still the shot of the day to savour - a forehand smash over Charl Langeveldt's head that would have put Steffi Graf or Jim Courier to shame.

"Please God, Let Bangladesh Win" So said a banner in the stands as we walked across for the presentation. "It's great for the tournament, man, it's great" yelled the man holding it. "We weren't the only ones to lose," shouted another dressed in Indian colours. The locals seemed to think that this opened up their path to the semi-finals. But they have to get past mighty Bangladesh first!

Dileep Premachandran is associate editor of Cricinfo

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Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to MyIndia.com followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and total-cricket.com. Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.
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