With Pakistan and West Indies missing key players and with Ireland becoming a stronger team, group B was always going to be an interesting one. The final four that would qualify was always in question. Group A however seemed pretty set. Australia and New Zealand had been on top form in the lead up to the tournament and any team involving the pure class of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena was sure to qualify. England had done well in the tri-series, they had beaten India and looked well set to qualify. Once again there looked like there was no room for Bangladesh. They were still the team that reached the finish line just too late.
However this year was different. As a side, they had improved vastly over the past few years and were ready to challenge the world order. They finally had some fierce bowlers and skilled batsmen who could win them matches.
Their campaign began with a game against Afghanistan in which Bangladesh’s super stars Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim built up a solid platform for Bangladesh. They put on 267 runs and went on to smash through Afghanistan’s batting order, winning by a margin of 105 runs. Bangladesh had just told the other full member nations that they were ready to challenge them for a spot in the knockouts. It was a gret start for them. Had their first game been against Australia and they were crushed, it could have been very demoralising for them.
It was as though there was a higher power that wanted Bangladesh to qualify too. Cyclone Marcia did not allow a ball to be bowled in Bangladesh’s second game against Australia. Had they played (considering Australia’s track record in recent times and in World Cups), Bangladesh could well have been looking at their first loss of the tournament. Instead the points were split and Bangladesh were sitting high up in the tables early on.
Bangladesh went on to lose their next game against Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka put on a target of 333 for Bangladesh with Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara building a partnership of 210. The fielding performance of Bangladesh resembled that of the old team. They dropped catches and missed run out chances and did not look like a team ready for qualify. Their batting performance was also poor, only Soumya Sarkar looked like he was up for the chase. Most of the top order collapsed and they left too much work for their dynamic duo. Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim tried to close the gap and with the help of Sabbir Rahman they reached 240. 92 runs short of their target.
The next two games were extremely important for Bangladesh. With the extra point from the washed out game against Australia, they had a chance to push past England in the tables and qualify. Mashrafe Mortaza’s men chased down Scotland’s 318 with two overs to spare. The fact that they Scotland were firstly able to score over 300 was not a great start for Bangladesh but it gave their batsmen time at the crease which is exactly what they needed. It was particularly useful for Bangladesh’s top order who had not performed well so far.
Match 33. The 9th of March was possibly the most important day of any Bangladeshi cricket fan’s life. It was the day Bangladesh were playing England. It was the day Bangladesh could prove themselves to the world and repay every Bangladeshi supporter that had stuck by them through the years. England had already faced three crushing losses and were looking ragged going into the game. Bangladesh were coming off a high and were hungry for the challenge. Batting first they got off to a poor start with two wickets falling for eight runs. Soumya Sarkar who had played very positively throughout the tournament rebuilt the innings with Mohammad Mahmudullah. Once again though in the 90s, two wickets fell in quick succession. However Mahmudullah was unfazed, he went on to score a century and along with Rahim they put on a partnership of 141 runs. Bangladesh ended on a very respectable total of 275 runs.
It was an unfocused and half-hearted performance from England. Almost each batting pair made a start and each time they looked settled, the partnership was broken. Five of the English batsmen got out knicking the ball behind with four of them scoring a minimum of 27. England looked unsure of themselves. From 121-3, they moved to 132-5. Jos Buttler looked like the man to finish the job for England. He played some wonderful strokes and with a helping hand from Joe Root and Chris Woakes he got England so close to the finish line. Once again though, the partnership was broken and Buttler was removed. Woakes however still looked motivated and a dropped catch in the deep made it look as though England might squeeze through to the quarter finals. However it was Rubel Hossain who had the last say, he bowled magnificently and knocked over the final two wickets to win the game.
Bangladesh had made it through to the quarter finals for the first time ever. Their efforts had paid off and they truly deserved a spot in the final eight. They had one final game left to play against New Zealand and they gave them a run for their money. It was a new team, a team not to be taken lightly.