It was a day of missed opportunities for Bangladesh. This was the second game they were playing after their match against Australia was washed out. It was probably their best chance to push ahead in the tables after the points for the Australia game were split. However once again, Bangladesh missed out.
The MCG was less than half full for the 18th match on Thursday the 26th of February. The game was Sri Lanka vs. Bangladesh. It was not expected to be a high profile game but by no means did that make it a dull one. The true and hardcore Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi fans were out in full force and they made up for their small numbers in heart and soul. Sri Lanka were batting first with Lahiru Thirimanne and Tillakaratne Dilshan opened the batting. Both batsmen had gotten out for ducks against Afghanistan and Bangladesh would have been thinking ‘if they can do it so can we!’.
Bangladesh, the team with the youngest average age in the World Cup genuinely looked competitive in their bowling and batting department. Nowhere near strong enough to win a major tournament just yet, but strong enough to make the top six sweat and work for their place. As always though, it was the fielding that let them down. Considering they’re a fresh young team they should have been all over their fielding. Whether it was the size of the MCG or the pressure of the tournament, Bangladesh broke down. They conceded too many runs through misfields, missed run out chances and they dropped far too many catches.
In the first over, Thirimanne was dropped by Anamul Haque at slip. He was then given another life through a missed stumpings. Had Bangladesh taken either of these chances they could have dug into the lower order much earlier in the innings when they were fresher and full-spirited. Thirimanne went on to score 52 before he chipped one out to third man. At 122 runs this was the only Sri Lankan wicket to fall for the rest of the innings. Kumar Sangakkara (who was playing his 400th ODI) went on to score a masterful century and along with Dilshan put on a 210 run partnership in 25.3 overs. Sangakkara’s century was full of high class shots but he mishit two. Bangladesh could have had him out on both 23 runs and 60 runs had they not dropped another two catches in the field. Bangladesh even had a chance to remove Dilshan as he was left stranded from a mix up but there was no one at the stumps to back up the fielder. An almost rookie mistake that an international side should not be making. As much as it was a poor fielding performance from Bangladesh, their bowlers bowled well. Both the fastest balls of the day came from the Bangladesh team. They were able to create chances and though they did not capitalise on those chances it was a very positive sign.
Credit of course must be given to the Sri Lankan batsmen, in particular to Dilshan who scored his highest ODI score. He played brilliantly and except for the mix-up, he played very safely. It was a hard earned 161, Dilshan faced cramp but stuck around to ensure Sangakkara was able to reach his 22nd ODI century. As the openers had already created a base Sangakkara had some freedom to play, a luxury not often given to him. He hit his fastest ODI century and played some beautifully powerful shots. Sri Lanka ended their innings on 332-1. They finally hit the form they needed to be competitive in the World Cup.
As expected, Bangladesh’s chase was in vain. They were all out for 240 runs. Had they taken their opportunities, they could have been chasing a much smaller total.
Six of the 11 players for Bangladesh made a start with each getting a minimum of 25 runs. However none of them could cash in and go on to make a big score. Soumya Sarkar began a fearless counter-attack smashing 25 from 15 balls giving the fans something to cheer about but his run also ended quickly. Only Sabbir Rahman (Bangladesh’s no.8 batsman) went on to score a half century. Sri Lanka took most of their chances, only dropping only one catch. They were able to break partnerships at vital times unlike Bangladesh. At 100-5 Bangladesh left too much pressure on their main batsmen Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan. Having lost five wickets, neither could play with ease. However with some help from Sabbir and the captain they were able to guide Bangladesh to 240, but no further.
Bangladesh could be a highly competitive team, they have some real potential but to be a top team they must learn to work on their fielding. South Africa have some of the best batsmen and bowlers in the world but they still field as though each opportunity will be their last. Bangladesh need that mindset should they wish to grow as a side.