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There was a time when a target of 306 was considered a stiff chase. But that era has passed a long time ago. If anything, a 300-plus is nothing more than a par effort these days. If Bangladesh felt crossing 300 was a commendable effort, England’s reply made it seem at least 30 runs short. Joe Root was coming off a pretty lean three-match series against South Africa, but hit the ground running in the big tournament. His unbeaten 133 off 129 balls ensured the hosts never felt the pressure of the chase, and showed why England are the bookmakers’ favourite to clinch their first 50-over world title.
Bangladesh were the side to knock out England from the 2015 World Cup, the nadir for the inventors of the format. But that also was the point after which they overhauled the way they looked at and played ODIs. Eoin Morgan’s team plays a fearless brand of cricket where batsmen don’t think twice about taking the attacking option. It backfires on the odd occasion, but on the whole it has made the England one-day team much more successful and attractive to watch.
On Thursday, Root and Alex Hales (95 off 86 balls) made light of the early loss of Jason Roy to set the home team on its way. Morgan then made sure there were no tremors as his 61-ball 75 took England to an 8-wicket win with as many as 16 balls to spare.
Bangladesh packed their side with batsmen and though it helped them reach 305, it was a good comeback by the English bowlers. At one stage, when Tamim Iqbal (128) and Mushfiqur Rahim (79 off 72) were going strong, a total of at least 325 looked possible, but the hosts pulled back admirably.
The long batting line-up meant Bangladesh were short of bowling firepower, with neither their fastest bowler Taskin Ahmed or young off-spinner Mehedi Hasan finding a spot in the playing XI.
It allowed the England batsmen to bide their time, play out the experienced Mashrafe Mortaza and the skilful Mustafizur Rahman, and take everyone else to the cleaners. These two were the only bowlers to come away with economy rates of less than six an over.
Root is one of the pre-eminent batsmen of this era, and he showed his class on a beautiful batting wicket at the Oval. He hit 11 fours and a six, scoring at better than a run a ball, but never seemed to hit the ball hard. His touch, timing and placement – especially on the cover drives and back foot punches – were a treat to watch. While Hales and Morgan took the more muscular approach, there was more class on show in Root’s batting. He made light of a twisted ankle, suffered while going for a pull shot, and though struggling at times between the wickets, was his serene self against everything Bangladesh could throw at him.
Ben Stokes’ fitness had been the major injury concern for England in the lead-up to the tournament, but they had to tide over another big one when Chris Woakes walked off the field after bowling just two overs with the new ball. It necessitated Stokes bowling seven overs, but they had enough pace bowling cover on the day, having omitted leg-spinner Adil Rashid to play five fast men in their 11.
Brief scores: Bangladesh 305/6 in 50 overs (Tamim Iqbal 128 in 142 balls, Mushfiqur 79 in 72 balls; Plunkett 4/59) lost to England 308/2 in 47.2 overs (Root 133 not out in 129 balls, Hales 95 in 86 balls, Morgan 75 not out in 65 balls) by 8 wickets and 16 balls to spare