Maybe, we shouldn’t be surprised. There may be a considerable difference in rankings and pedigree, but Bangladesh players and fans believe that on their day, they’re a match for anybody. An insipid South Africa found that out, to their own cost, on Sunday. Most of Bangladesh’s senior players came to the party with the bat, and when it came to defending a big total – their highest in ODIs – their spinners and, significantly, their seamers showed the nous and skill to ensure that every partnership was nipped to pave the way for a winning start to their campaign.
It’s also a thumbs-up to the astute preparation that Bangladesh undertook before the World Cup. They arrived in the region early, played a tri-series in Ireland, and beat West Indies twice for their first multi-national trophy. As not many of their players featured in the Indian Premier League, they got time to gel as a unit. South Africa came into the World Cup a bit under the radar, and judging by their first two matches, one now sees why. They tried to bounce out the Bangladesh batsmen, but when that didn’t work, they had no Plan B. They went for 70 runs in the last six overs, 54 in the last four, as Mahmudullah and Mosaddek Hossain made merry against some ordinary bowling and sloppy fielding.
While batting, in the absence of Hashim Amla, missing the match after a blow to his head against England, most of their main men got off to starts but fell before making it count. This proved to be their undoing in a high-scoring game. The Proteas fell short by 21 runs. One wonders what could have happened had any of their top-order players stayed till the end. Skipper Faf du Plessis top-scored with 62, trying to undo the damage of putting the opposition in after winning the toss, while Aiden Markram, David Miller, Rassie van der Dussen and JP Duminy were all dismissed around or in their 40s.
Bangladesh’s impressive total of 330/6 was built on the foundation laid by Mushfiqur Rahim (78) and Shakib Al Hasan (75), who added 142 for the third wicket at the Oval. That Lungi Ngidi had to leave the field after bowling just four overs due to a hamstring strain also didn’t help South Africa. He was subsequently ruled out for 10 days.
The Proteas had to rewrite World Cup records to win the contest but Mustafizur Rahman took three wickets and Mohammad Saifuddin got vital breakthroughs. Spinners Shakib and Mehidy Hasan were miserly and also chipped in with big scalps. Quinton de Kock and Markram took the team to 49 before a misunderstanding gifted Bangladesh a wicket. Du Plessis and Markram put on 53 in 60 balls before Shakib going through the opener’s defences.
The skipper looked destined for a significant impact, before an ugly hoick off Mehidy caused his downfall. For a while, Miller seemed to be playing a guiding role with energetic running and a few big shots putting pressure on Bangladesh, but that too didn’t last long.
With the asking rate reaching 10 runs an over, van der Dussen also succumbed and it looked a tall order for South Africa. Duminy was their last hope but when he was bowled by Mustafizur, it was the last nail in the coffin. “It will be one of our top wins,” said player of the match Shakib. “We have done some upsets at World Cups but we want to prove something at this tournament.”
Up next for South Africa is India at Southampton on Wednesday, and even at this stage of the World Cup, South Africa realise it’s a game they can’t afford to lose. For starters, they will hope to get Amla and Dale Steyn back.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, can look forward to a clash against New Zealand on the same day at the site of their Sunday’s heroics.