In what might have been an unthinkable sequence of events just a week back, Bangladesh are one step away from qualifying for the semifinals of the Champions Trophy 2017. An amazing come-from-behind win in their final Group A match against New Zealand took them to three points, and their fate will be decided when Australia and England face off on Saturday (June 10).
England are already assured of the top spot. If they win, or there is no result, Bangladesh will finish second. If Australia win, Bangladesh will be pushed to third. New Zealand are already knocked out due to the defeat.
But while the whole country will be hoping for an England victory, Mashrafe Mortaza, the Bangladesh captain, took the high road, saying he couldn’t very well sit and wish ill-luck on another team.
“Look, yes, that will be nice, but we can’t just ask that Australia lose the game,” he said after beating New Zealand by five wickets in Cardiff on Friday. “It will be nice. But I would like to say to both teams, best of luck. Whatever we could do, we did. That is the most important for us. I’m not sure if we will make the semifinals or not, but obviously we would like to. And if we go there, I hope we will play better cricket than we have so far.”
Bangladesh had lost to England and were saved by the rain against Australia, and in both matches, the batting came a cropper apart from Tamim Iqbal. Against New Zealand, he fell for a first-over duck, but Bangladesh found new heroes in Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah, who both hit centuries in a stirring 224-run partnership after the side had been reduced to 33 for 4.
Mortaza said that others stepping up was a good sign for the team. “Look, we know Tamim can’t be expected to score every day. That happened today. But we knew we had some extraordinary players. I had faith that Shakib and Mahmudullah can make a difference. We have players, and 266 was gettable. Though from 33 for 4, it became very hard.”
Kane Williamson, the New Zealand captain, said his side’s 265 for 8 was probably below par, but after the start Tim Southee’s three wickets gave them, they had been confident of defending it. “I suppose after the start that we had with the ball, we thought 265 was going to be enough,” he said. “Saying that, at the halfway stage on that surface, we knew if we bowled well, we could make life quite difficult. But we would have liked a few more runs. I thought closer to 300 would have been a much better total, one that was achievable certainly from the position we were in. But it wasn’t to be.
Mashrafe Mortaza: “It will be nice (if they lose), but we can’t just ask that Australia lose the game. It will be nice. But I would like to say to both teams, best of luck. Whatever we could do, we did. That is the most important for us. I’m not sure if we will make the semifinals or not, but obviously we would like to. And if we go there, I hope we will play better cricket than we have so far.”
“I think Bangladesh bowled well,” added Williamson. “There’s a number of factors. It wasn’t through lack of effort. But we certainly didn’t play our best cricket. We were in a position of strength with the bat, and if things were to go our way, we know we have a lot of power in that middle, lower order. They are very talented. Such a short tournament, you want everyone firing, and it wasn’t to be. We left a few runs out there.”
Williamson also lauded Bangladesh’s progress as a cricketing power. “We saw at home (earlier in the year in New Zealand) that they were able to put us under pressure pretty much in every game that we played. The experience they have in their middle order, and the talent they have, as well, meant that if it came together, we knew that they could beat anyone. And they are showing that more consistently nowadays, that’s for sure.
“Back home, yes, it appeared one-sided perhaps. We had a number of wins, but we knew that every game was very, very competitive.”
Southee, who had taken the first three wickets to fall, said the Bangladesh team was growing with every series. “They’re always improving obviously,” he said. “They’re a real force in their own conditions and it’s a tough place to tour. They know how to play in their own backyard and now we’ve seen, they are also developing away from Bangladesh. I think that comes with more exposure around the world, and they have shown in the last couple of years they’re a quality side. I think we’ll see a very competitive Bangladesh side over the next couple of years, not only at home, but away from home as well.”