Bangladesh do it the hard way
Bangladesh kept their World Cup dream alive while denying England an early place in the quarter-finals courtesy of a pulsating two-wicket win in Chittagong.
In yet another breathless finish for England - do they have a monopoly on them? - they narrowly failed to defend a modest total as Bangladesh scraped home with six balls to spare.
Defeat for the hosts, and a near certain exit from the competition on home soil, seemed inevitable as - during a run-chase that veered between explosive and tense, with much that was frantic in between - five wickets tumbled for 14 runs.
However, from the depths of 169 for eight, Shafiul Islam and Mahmudullah rescued a lost cause, mixing lusty hitting with even temperaments that contrasted sharply with England’s lack of composure.
Mahmudullah may have thumped Bresnan through cover to wrap up a memorable triumph for Bangladesh - he finished 21 not out - but Shafiul Islam’s run-a-ball unbeaten 24 was arguably the most important contribution.
Either way, they are unlikely to share many more important partnerships than the unbroken 58 they added under the floodlights tonight.
England must beat West Indies in their final group game, in Chennai next Thursday, to make sure of a place in the last eight, while Bangladesh’s victory - and particularly the manner of it - had the same fans who stoned Shakib Al Hasan’s house after they were bowled out for 58 last week toasting one of their country’s most famous days.
Oh, how those who streamed out of the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium when Bangladesh lost their eighth wicket missed a treat.
Amid the hand-wringing that will follow England’s second defeat to a side they were widely expected to beat - the 23 wides they bowled cannot be explained simply by the dampness of the ball on a dewy evening - one should not overlook the contributions of Jonathan Trott, Eoin Morgan, Ajmal Shahzad and Graeme Swann.
England were indebted to half-centuries from the dependable Trott and the returning Morgan as they were bowled out for 225, while Shahzad and Swann were central to their sterling fightback with the ball after Bangladesh progressed to an apparently comfortable 155 for four.
Imrul Kayes will be especially thankful for the efforts of Shafiul and Mahmudullah, having run himself out to spark their precipitous collapse, a moment which appeared to be the turning point in the game.
Ultimately, however, Kayes’ patient 60 - and a fine catch to account for Morgan - earned him the match award.
Bangladesh’s reply had begun in predictably rapid fashion as Tamim Iqbal, who fed on England’s waywardness - he played just three scoring shots on the off side - flayed 38 off 26 balls, before becoming the first of three quick wickets.
Beaten for pace and a hint of movement back in off the pitch, he was bowled by Tim Bresnan, silencing an excitable crowd that saw Junaid Siddique run out by James Anderson’s superb direct hit on the turn from square-leg, then Raqibul Hasan cleaned up by a near-unplayable leg-cutter from Shahzad.
From 73 for three, Kayes and Shakib performed a similar feat to Trott and Morgan in restoring stability, combining watchful defence with sensible strokeplay as they added 82 for the fourth wicket.
However, what was developing into a routine pursuit was transformed when the hitherto measured Kayes, chasing a needless second run, was beaten by Shahzad’s excellent pick-up and throw on the move from backward square-leg.
It was the start of an enthralling nine-over spell in which Bangladesh scored just 14 runs - and lost four further wickets to boot.
Shakib played on sweeping at a fired-up Swann, with whom he had exchanged words earlier on, and Mushfiqur Rahim was well taken by Matt Prior after edging Shahzad, who bettered that delivery with one that clipped Naeem Islam’s off bail and finished with 3-43.
When Bresnan took a superb catch over his shoulder at long-on to account for Abdur Razzak off Swann, Bangladesh’s fate appeared to be sealed.
Clearly those flocking out of the ground agreed, but they had underestimated Shafiul, who took Swann for a four and a six in an over costing 16, the last of his otherwise frugal allocation - before he and Mahmudullah performed a similar feat at the expense of Anderson and Bresnan to ensure the last six balls were not required.
England’s innings was by then a distant memory. In making 67, Trott passed 50 for the fourth time in five World Cup innings, while Morgan marked his comeback from a broken finger with a typically impish 63 off 72 balls.
Their contributions - and a fourth-wicket stand of 109 - stood out in a scorecard in which the next highest score was Andrew Strauss’ 18. Three of Bangladesh’s four spinners - Razzak, Shakib and Naeem - shared six wickets.
Matt Prior, reinstalled as an opener in Kevin Pietersen’s absence, managed a couple of off-side boundaries before falling to Razzak - thanks to his own carelessness as well as the quick thinking of Mushfiqur Rahim.
Mushfiqur was arguably too quick in whipping off the bails as Prior wandered out of his crease, but the wicketkeeper was alert enough to pull out a stump as the batsman stood absent-mindedly staring at the square-leg umpire.
Alert and enthusiastic in the field, Bangladesh gained further reward for their mounting pressure when Strauss, attempting to cut Naeem, provided Siddique with a sharp slip catch to his right, and Ian Bell chipped Mahmudullah tamely to midwicket.
The manner in which Morgan approached his innings belied a position of some peril for England, not to mention the fact he had not played since the start of February due to a broken finger.
The contrasting methods of Morgan and Trott - one using his feet superbly, the other content to play from the crease - enabled them to score at a shade under five an over, but both perished in the space of five overs to sap England’s momentum.
It took another splendid catch, Kayes diving forward at deep backward square-leg to hold a well-struck sweep off Naeem, to do for Morgan, while Trott holed out at long-on as he gave himself room to Shakib. He had faced 99 balls and hit just two fours.
Ravi Bopara, like Trott, fell inside a batting powerplay that yielded 33 runs, slapping to cover to give the impressive Razzak 2-32 despite conceding 11 off his final over.
Swann, aiming a second switch-hit off Shakib, merely skied a simple return catch; Bresnan sliced a full toss high to point; Shahzad had his middle stump uprooted by Shafiul, who impressed with the old ball; and Paul Collingwood was run out by Mahmudullah’s direct hit as he tried to get back on strike in the final over.
It was nothing compared to the excitement that was to follow.