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01 March 2024

Bangladesh hunt down West Indies with 2nd-best CWC chase

Photo: AP


Bangladesh achieved the second-highest run chase in cricket World Cup history and pushed the West Indies close to elimination in a surprisingly comfortable seven-wicket victory on Monday.

When West Indies surged to post 321-8, it knew every team making 300-plus batting first had won in this World Cup. Eight times out of eight.

But Bangladesh treated the fact like fluff on a shirt, flicking it off as it strolled to 322-3 to win with 51 balls to spare.

Shakib Al Hasan starred in the comeback with 124 not out, his second successive century in the tournament, and Liton Das added 94 not out in his World Cup debut. They combined for an unbeaten 189 in 22.3 overs, bashing short balls ruthlessly.

"No one felt that this was tough," Shakib said of the mood between the innings. "Everyone was comfortable and was chilling. It gave a lot of confidence in the dressing room and belief that we could chase that."

Bangladesh's second precious win in five matches lifted it into the top half of the standings. The mission to make a first World Cup semifinal received a massive boost. Next up is Australia.

The deflated West Indies, however, dropped to one win in five with a hard road ahead against New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan to reach the semifinals for the time in 23 years.

Shakib sliced apart a pedestrian West Indies attack with pulls and cuts off the back foot, and some luck. He top edged three times over the wicketkeeper, and should have been out on 55, but keeper Shai Hope, running backward, and Shannon Gabriel, coming forward, didn't communicate and both backed off as the ball fell between them.

Other shots by Shakib and Das landed near fielders who made little effort to go for them, the batsmen gradually stripping hope from the West Indies, which was reduced to long faces, heads down, and thousand-yard stares.

The result was no surprise. Bangladesh came in having beaten the West Indies in seven of their last nine matches, including the last four, all from batting second.

The Bangladeshis prepared meticulously for the short ball, even taking hits to the body in the nets, and the preparation paid off. Their cause was aided by the pacemen often bowling too short, too full or wayward. They conceded 25 wides. Gabriel and Oshane Thomas were liabilities, and the decision to play allrounder Andre Russell was questionable.

Russell's bad knees are not allowing him to express himself. He was out for a two-ball duck, and he took the first Bangladesh wicket. But he bowled only six overs, and was a reluctant fielder while hobbling around.

His limitations put pressure on captain Jason Holder, who bowled pace too long. Chris Gayle's spin wasn't introduced until the 30th over, but Shakib and Das had 77 together by then and hit Gayle for 22 off two overs and saw him off.

Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar set the tone of Bangladesh's fearless riposte in the first seven overs with a 52-run stand, then Tamim and Shakib combined for 69. It took an incredible reaction catch and throw by Sheldon Cottrell to wedge out Tamim, run out on 48.

Shakib became the second Bangladeshi to pass 6,000 ODI runs, after Tamim. He cover drove Thomas to reach his century off 83 balls, his second straight hundred after 121 against England. His unbeaten 124, his ninth ODI century, included 16 boundaries.
"To stay at the wicket till the end was the most satisfying," he said.

Das replaced Mohammad Mithun in the only change after the losing run chase against England nine days ago, and his placement was not only clever but also cheeky, hitting to parts just vacated by West Indies fielders. Das hit Gabriel for three sixes in a row, was dropped by Cottrell on 72, and completed the victory by pulling Gabriel to the boundary.

In World Cup history, only Ireland's 329-7 rundown of England in 2011 was better.

West Indies set what looked to be a challenging total despite ducks by Gayle and Russell. Gayle has two ducks in five World Cups, both against Bangladesh.

Evin Lewis and Hope produced the team's first century partnership of the tournament, 116 for the second wicket, and that set up a late charge at 300. Hope holed out on 96, Lewis made a 67-ball 70, Shimron Hetmyer cracked 50 off 26 balls, and Holder smacked 33 off 15.

It seemed enough. But the decision to play batsman Darren Bravo instead of bowling allrounder Carlos Brathwaite backfired.