An enthralling display of power hitting by Mohammad Ashraful and Aftab Ahmed helped Bangladesh stroll to a six-wicket win against West Indies in Johannesburg. After eliminating India from the first round of the World Cup, Bangladesh inflicted the same on West Indies today as the target of 165 turned out to be a walk in the park for a team armed with batsmen ideally suited for this format of the game.
It was a sweet revenge for Ashraful, who after conceding over 50 runs with his legbreaks, bludgeoned the West Indies bowlers to record the fastest fifty in Twenty20 internationals, off just 20 balls. The early wickets of Tamim Iqbal and Nazimuddin - both falling to miscued pulls - did absolutely nothing to deter Aftab and Ashraful as the chase went into overdrive.
The most impressive aspect of the stand was that it was studded with genuine strokes and not ugly slogs or swipes. Aftab in particular used his bottom hand to good effect, picking deliveries from outside the off stump and swinging across the line to square leg. The fielding was mostly shoddy and there was hardly anything the West Indians could take heart from as boundary after boundary was leaked to all corners.
Ashraful set the tone after blasting Daren Powell for four consecutive fours. In the same vein, he took on Ravi Rampaul and the shot which stood out was the drag-flick over fine leg for six. To make matters worse for West Indies, Fidel Edwards dropped Ashraful on 29 and they were made to pay dearly for that lapse. Ashraful then took on Dwayne Bravo and his slower balls were despatched straight, over midwicket and square leg.
The fielders at the boundary could do little to stop the flurry of boundaries as all length deliveries were scooped over the infield. Ashraful's knock came to an end in the fag end of the chase, caught at cover off Ramnaresh Sarwan but it was a little too late for West Indies. Aftab added the finishing touches to take his side home with the luxury of two overs to spare.
Earlier, West Indies were propped by a second-wicket stand of 94 between Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Devon Smith and then some late fireworks by Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Smith.
A disciplined opening spell by Syed Rasel kept West Indies on a tight leash as he conceded just 10 runs off his four overs. Following his blistering ton against South Africa at the same venue on Tuesday, Chris Gayle's fortunes took an about-turn as he was sent packing by Rasel without scoring off the third ball of the match. With wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim standing up to the stumps, Rasel kept the batsmen in check with his tight line, aimed at the stumps, giving Chanderpaul and Devon Smith very little room to cut or pull.
He however didn't quite get enough support at the other end as Ashraful kept rotating his bowlers. Chanderpaul and Devon Smith grew in confidence once the third seamer Farhad Reza came on. Length deliveries were given the right treatment as Chanderpaul walked across his stumps and executed the pick-up stroke, scooping deliveries from outside the off stump over deep square leg. Devon Smith then executed a front-foot thump past Reza which nearly cleaned up the umpire. The intent of that stroke was indicative of West Indies' recovery after Gayle departed.
However, the re-introduction of Razzak pegged West Indies back as he sent back Devon Smith and Chanderpaul in quick succession. Samuels, batting with an injured ankle, hardly needed any assistance from his runner as he treated himself to a slog fest when Ashraful brought himself on. A six over deep midwicket was followed by another one over the bowler's head and then a four over deep extra cover. A full-blooded cover drive was taken by Shakib Al Hasan but that didn't bring any respite for Bangladesh as it brought Dwayne Smith to the crease.
Dwayne Smith then launched into Ashraful, smashing three consecutive sixes and a four. The over was worth a whopping 24. Shakib picked up three easy wickets in the final over as West Indies went for the runs. Despite the late flurry, West Indies fell around 40 runs short and walked out of the tournament without a win.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo