Often a contest between two equally matched minnows proves as fascinating and surprising as one between the top two teams in the world, and the Bangladesh-Canada Pool B encounter at Kingsmead on Tuesday proved that truism only too well.
On the face of it, Bangladesh, with a few years of international experience and a recent World Cup under their belt, would have certainly been considered favourites. Canada, after all, had last been in international cricket in the 1979 World Cup, and with Bangladesh having played in South Africa only recently, the sensible money would certainly have been on them.
The opening spells of the Bangladesh medium-pacers looked to bear out that prediction. Mashrafe Mortaza and Manjural Islam bowled tight line and length, affording the Canadian openers little chance to free their arms and go for their shots. Mortaza bowled John Davison neck and crop, and Tapash Baisya dismissed the compact Ismail Maraj caught at midwicket.
Desmond Chumney stroked the ball fluently around for singles and hit a few sweetly timed boundaries in his knock of 28 (25 balls, three fours, one six) before he fell, run out after calling for a non-existent single behind square leg.
Wickets continued to tumble for Canada. Captain Joseph Harris essayed a sweep to Sanwar Hossain and only succeeded in gloving the ball to Khaled Mashud behind the stumps, while Nicholas de Groot tried to work the same bowler to leg and got a leading edge to Alok Kapali at mid-off.
Ian Billcliff, amidst the ruins, stood composed to the tune of 42 runs and 63 balls, hitting six fours in his impressive stay at the crease. He witnessed the dismissal of Fazil Sattaur, leg-before to Alok Kapali, before being run out himself. The end of the innings followed inevitably, but Bangladesh's spinners, although efficiently restricting the run-rate, could not skittle out the tailenders before they took Canada to 180 all out in 49.1 overs - a defendable total, but moderate all the same.
But the runs still had to be made, and Canada showed their willingness to make a fight of it right from ball one, when multiple fielders converged on the ball in the field, backing up sometimes as far as three deep behind the stumps. The bowling, however, was erratic to start with, and the errant line was punished as both openers flicked off the pads and drove through the covers with panache.
Davis Joseph was the first bowler to break through, having Al Sahariar caught at mid-on, dragging the ball from outside off. Habibul Bashar departed soon after, trying to force a Sanjay Thuraisingam delivery through the off with minimal footwork and getting an edge through to keeper Ashish Bagai.
Bagai had a much easier catch of it when Hannan Sarkar (25, 35 balls, four fours) played a similar shot off Austin Codrington, and at 46 for three, Bangladesh were in some trouble. Ehsanul Haque and Sanwar Hossain then added 30 runs for the fourth wicket before further damage was done. Joseph, in his seventh over of the innings, got one to seam away just a touch off the pitch, and Ehsanul (13, 17 balls) feathered an edge through to Bagai, who took yet another fine tumbling catch.
Sanwar followed after another 30 runs were added to the team's total, playing across the line to a John Davison delivery and trapped in front for 25 (24 balls). An over later, Codrington trapped Alok Kapali (18, 23 balls) in front of the stumps. Khaled Mashud, Tapash Baisya and Mashrafe Mortaza all dismissed themselves, playing loose or indecisive strokes to perfectly playable deliveries.
Mohammad Rafique, a sturdy bat in his own right, slammed a couple of boundaries in desperation, but when he pulled Codrington awkwardly to the midwicket fielder inside the circle, he presented the bowler with his fifth wicket. The first five-wicket bag of the 2003 World Cup was just reward for the dreadlocked medium-pacer who on the day kept impeccable control over his line and length, forcing the batsmen to play at almost every ball and taking, in one evening, more than half as many wickets as he had in limited-overs contests till yesterday.
Codrington's performance also sealed the first major upset win of the 2003 World Cup as Canada triumphed by 60 runs over Bangladesh, ironic considering that Bangladesh was at the delivering end of an upset in the 1999 World Cup with their win over Pakistan. Canada, for their part, got a taste of the thrills inherent in World Cup cricket - pulling a team together to defy the odds and on a floodlit night taste victory for the first time.