Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Bowling well done

It was the forty-third over, Bangladesh were bowling and there were six fielders inside the thirty-yard circle. That image alone summed up Bangladesh’s fielding effort against Sri Lanka in their Asia Cup match at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium yesterday.
Bangladesh had to win the match to go through to the Asia Cup final for the first time in their history, and it seemed a different outfit that took the field. It would have been natural for the Tigers, who had already done more than expected by beating world champions India on Friday, to be overawed by the occasion and to leak runs in their eagerness. They were eager, but it was characterised by a steely resolve that saw Sri Lanka being choked out for 232.
The discipline in all aspects was what characterised the fielding and bowling display. Yes, there were exceptions — Shahadat Hossain’s erratic spell in the middle overs threatened to undo Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and Nazmul Hossain’s good work at the start of the innings, and Shakib Al Hasan was more expensive than his usual stingy self. But even then Shahadat redeemed himself with a good spell in the death overs and Shakib picked up two important wickets.
It all started with the opening spell from Nazmul and Mashrafe. Sri Lanka have three batsmen who can take the game away from any team in the world — skipper Mahela Jayawardene and former skippers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara. Within the first ten overs all of them were back in the hut. Nazmul took all three prize wickets, but Mashrafe was as instrumental in the dismissals.
The importance of bowling in partnerships could not have been better illustrated. Mashrafe was as stingy as ever, realising the importance of drying up the runs to pick up wickets during the Powerplay, and Nazmul reaped the rewards through some disciplined bowling off his own. Mashrafe’s first spell of six overs went for only 13, while Nazmul picked up 3 for 22.
From 32 for three the Sri Lankans managed to get to 232 all out — on the face of it an impressive recovery. But what was even more impressive was that Bangladesh’s intensity did not slip a bit, even as Chamara Kapugedera and Lahiru Thirimanne built an 88-run partnership for the fourth wicket. The batsmen were kept under constant pressure through smart bowling and fielding. The pitch was a good one to bat on, but Bangladesh’s bowlers stuck to a plan and dried up the runs.
Mashrafe, who seemed to be consigned to a wicketless display, came back strongly in his second spell too. He bowled an intelligent mix of slower balls and full deliveries to keep the lower order batsmen guessing. He was finally rewarded when he clean bowled Lasith Malinga in the last over to end with superb figures of 1 for 30 off 9.5 overs.
The enduring impression of the Tigers’ performance on the field was their eagerness to go for the jugular. Scarcely was an easy run given with fielders chasing the ball to within an inch of the boundary being a common sight. The Tigers’ intent was clear: nothing short of a win that takes them to the final would do.

-With The Daily Star input

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