Saturday, June 22, 2024

Fortunes swing for inspired Shafiul

When Shafiul Islam flung his arms in pure delight after Junaed Siddiqui gulped down Ireland No 11 Boyd Rankin’s miscued chip, the mind flew back to Wednesday mid-morning when he fell badly on his right shoulder during training, now a thousand miles away from the euphoria of the Tigers’ 27-run win.
He didn’t move much then, lying on his stomach and contemplating a disaster-in-waiting. Nazmul Hossain and Rubel Hossain helped him up and when he walked off holding his shoulder with physio Mike Henry, clouds gathered around the Bangladesh camp. On Friday night, his teammates came up to him, not to rescue him but to lift the Bogra boy as the toast of the team.
The win has firmly put the Tigers back into contention for a quarterfinal place despite having a terrible day with the bat; Shafiul’s inspired spell and Shakib Al Hasan’s bowling changes papering over the cracks that developed through some silly shots.
That Shafiul didn’t win the man-of-the-match award must have surprised him (Tamim Iqbal confiding later that he was surprised; probably it was his catch to remove Niall O’Brien that won him the prize), but Shafiul was washed over by pure relief at having vindicated himself with an astounding spell of swing bowling, so late in the piece at the slow and low Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium wicket.
His final spell, effectively the match-winning one for the Tigers, began in the 34th over when Ireland were 144 for five, the game hanging by the proverbial thread.
Shafiul drew a review out of the skipper off the third ball, only for umpire Aleem Dar to turn it down. The newer (changed) ball kept swinging and Shafiul was clever enough to pitch it up. If luck brought him the first wicket (Kevin O’Brien’s well-timed pull finding substitute Sohrawardi Shuvo at deep square-leg), his length got Botha’s scalp with a swinging full ball that rattled into middle-stump.
Next over, Johnston had little time to bring his bat down as Shafiul’s ball reversed prodigiously, the former Ireland captain asking for what was an unsuccessful review. Five balls into his eighth over, the Tigers began to get slightly tensed (the mood of the last two days), but Shafiul laid all that to rest with his length ball that had Rankin groping for it.
“I knew this morning I really had to bowl well if I were to play and well, I did,” said Shafiul during a rather boisterous press conference. “The India game was a bad day but I believed that I could make a comeback.”
On the eve of the game, Henry had declared that it was upto Shafiul to prove that his bung shoulder would work against Ireland and the skinny Shafiul did just that. His final spell of six overs got him all four wickets; a testament to his proficiency as a fine bowler with the old ball.
Shafiul’s injury gave the team a lot of combinations to chew over but after he passed his fitness test hours before the game, the Tigers stuck to that one change. “I gave ice the night before and had a few pain-killers, felt well in the morning and I thought I could do well with the ball,” he added.
“I really didn’t think I would win the man-of-the-match award,” said Tamim, who injured his left hand after taking the diving catch to get rid of the elder O’Brien brother. “(Shafiul Islam) Shuhash deserved it and I thought he bowled very well,” added the left-hander who made 44 off 43 balls.
Shafiul’s stunning effort could revive the party atmosphere across the nation after it was doused by the India defeat. The spell also effectively put Shakib’s men into a position from where they can launch an assault into the West Indies on March 4.
Shafiul might well go through a sleepless night with pain but as the youngster said, “I thought I would be winning the man-of-the-match but the win actually made me forget about it.”


Courtesy of The Daily Star

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