Just when you thought you were out, the Champions Trophy pulls you back in.
Like a B-movie action hero, it’s a tournament constantly on the verge of being killed off, only to make a miraculous comeback at the very last minute. However after the first six days of this year’s one-sided and rain affected matches, there will have been more than a few people advocating taking the competition out behind the woodshed and putting it out of its misery once and for all.
That was three days ago though, before those most mischievous of masters, the cricketing gods, decided to serve up a delicious triptych of increasingly thrilling matches. First, an old classic – as Pakistan resorted to self-parody to switch from woeful to wonderful and overturn South Africa. Second came throwback Thursday as Sri Lanka rolled back the years to shock India, before the pièce de resistance – Bangladesh’s stunning slaying of New Zealand in Cardiff.
At the same ground where 12 years ago they shocked Ricky Ponting’s Australia, the Tigers produced one of the most memorable comeback victories in ODI history.
Coming into this game, Bangladesh’s primary concern had been their ability to take wickets in the tournament. Even with one match truncated by rain, a return of three wickets from two games had been a major disappointment.
With that in mind they opted to make two changes, Taskin Ahmed replacing Imrul Kayes and Mosaddek Hossain replacing Mehedi Hasan – in hindsight they were to prove inspired alterations.
Bangladesh ultimately did very well with the ball, although at one point, with Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor together in the middle, things were starting to look a little ominous for them.
They were however handed a huge slice of fortune as Taylor and Williamson managed to produce what was unbelievably their ninth run out batting together in ODI cricket, New Zealand’s captain and the tournament’s top run scorer the man dismissed.
With Williamson gone, the Tigers sensed they had a chance to get at the soft underbelly of a New Zealand middle order that had failed in both of their previous games. It was not a chance they wasted.
New man Mossadek Hossain was the man to do the damage, with a match-turning spell of 3/13 from three overs – the Black Caps eventually finishing on an underwhelming 265/8 from their 50 overs.
If Bangladesh fancied their chances at the halfway stage, they would soon see their hopes nearly torn to shreds inside the first 12 overs as New Zealand became the first side in the tournament to get the white ball to swing – and with devastating effect.
With only the second ball of the innings, Tim Southee removed Tamim Iqbal, the opener’s hot streak ended with a devilish delivery that trapped him plumb LBW in front of leg stump – an occurrence made even worse by Tamim’s decision to unsuccessfully review the decision.
Southee though was far from finished and soon had Soumya Sarkar and Sabbir Rahman walking back to the pavilion as well. Bangladesh were 12/3 and their chances of producing the tournament’s third upset in as many days seemed to be heading for the horizon with its tail between its legs – and when Adam Milne bowled Mushfiqur Rahim through the gate to make it 33/4 you'd be forgiven for thinking that was game over.
However that was to count against one of the finest ODI stands witnessed in recent memory, as Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah produced a rearguard action in Cardiff worthy of the Welsh Guards at Rawke’s Drift.
Shakib, as you are seemingly contractually obliged to point out, is the leading all-rounder in all three of the ICC’s Test, ODI and T20 rankings, and on a far from summery afternoon at Sophia Gardens, he showed exactly why that is, combining beautifully with the less-vaunted but here equally superb Mahmudullah.
It was a partnership for the ages, ended finally when Trent Boult cleaned up Shakib’s stumps, but not before he’d made 114 runs as the pair racked up 224 runs together, to bat and bat and bat until each flash of their blades had chipped New Zealand’s advantage away to nothing.
Mahmudullah reached a century of his own before Mossadek sliced the winning runs through a gap in the slip cordon to give Bangladesh a victory that will live long in the memory.
England then will have XXX million new supporters for their match with Australia – a win for the hosts in their final group game would see Bangladesh progress to the semi-finals – proof if ever it was needed that you write them and the Champions Trophy off at your peril.
Updated Date: Jun 10, 2017 08:53 AM