View Full Version : From Agony to Ecstasy!

June 20, 2005, 01:03 PM
From Agony to Ecstasy

I have now recovered from 3 days of what could only be described as a virtual roller coaster. The last 2 games have provided ample details to ponder about but I shall restrict myself to a few points, which I hope may provide a personal peek at the 2 matches from a spectator's point of view.

My abiding memories of Oval are of a friendly and spirited pitch, cricket games played in the right spirit and healthy scorecards, and … rain, rain as in the English kind. The potential of a damp field was always on and Thursday was no different, with the whole of Bangladesh's innings conducted in a steady precipitation that varied from intermittent drizzle to persistent rain. We got through it however, and produced a respectable batting and bowling performance under the circumstances, even though the wicketless scorecard of defeat is derided as a sign of weakness. No, a look at Masrafee would be ample evidence that our bowlers are certainly not a bunch of mediocre performers. With his improved run up, perfect line and length, was a harbinger of more to come.
In many respects our batting seemed to struggle with the conditions more than the bowlers did, even if the scorecard does not say so. Slips and scary edges when playing shots was the common denominator as none of the batsmen got on top of the bowling, and there was a steady dribble of wickets to keep England in firm control.

Bangladesh could not put together a significant partnership at the Oval for many reasons but the on and off nature of the game played a major role. In short, our batsmen still need to realize that this is part and parcel of cricket. As an international team you bat at any conditions and there is simply no excuse.

Another excuse that I see bandied about is that England has a formidable bowling line up. I beg to differ and it was interesting to see Harmison in action. Despite generating sufficient pace and bounce, (an aspect that Tapash lacks), I am sure that had some of our batters could have handled his quota of overs without worries. Rather it was Lewis that troubled but the cruelest blow was Bashar´s dismissal. It was on track to be something special with Aftab in the other end but a split second misjudgment and an unnecessary hook at the wrong time, resulted in a match-breaking situation. Aftab needed Bashar and more than that Bangladesh really needs to get Bashar in the crease on a regular basis.

Of all the Bangladeshi batsmen, I was happy to see that when Bashar, unlike Nafis and Javed, was not beaten by the fast balls and the likelihood of a caught and bowled was slim at that point. He played clean shots and he was ready to stay right up to the end. To my surprise, the outfield was fast and the balls shot the boundary as in any other fine day.

Without further delay, let me narrate the events leading up to the earth shattering moment in Cardiff. I trudged to the ground rather lazily, careful not to repeat the bubbly fanfare of my early arrival at Oval.

It was a lonely walk of doom as all sorts of worst-case scenarios filled my head. At the Oval , I had to hear the humorous but taunting songs of all those England fans but today it was serious business. And sorry to say this, at the back of my mind, I was making plans in the event of a short game. Many others had forfeited their tickets. Many simply didn’t bother to buy a ticket despite living a few houses away. So all credit and salute goes to the brave souls who trudged to that ground despite all those legendary obstacles.

Soon I had rued the fact that I had actually missed our first 2 wickets! After seeing Tapash in his usual dogged form I realized quickly that the team exuded the same spirit as was evident in the first ODI match in West Indies- i.e. a buzzing fielding team out for blood!

Despite the fact that Sophia Gardens is a small ground (in terms of capacity) I must point out that the boundary is quite a treat and runs do get scored fast. I also happen to be intimately acquainted with this pitch from eons ago. And from previous observations, I can say that once set, a batsman will have no problems accomplishing big scores. Javed Miandad, can testify to that!

Undoubtedly, the fast and furious dismissal of Ponting and Gilchrist, had set the psychological framework of this game. Australia needed time to settle in and play their natural game. It is a disciplined team but nevertheless a team that also loves their shots and do nurse their flair of batting.

But Tapash came through brilliantly for Bangladesh with his early strike. But more importantly, our other bowlers kept things tight. Rafique played a brilliant 10 overs and should have been given that lbw decision against Clarke. And to this hour I maintain that Rafique is still the pick of our bowling with his ability to inflict a degree of uncertainty in the opposition camp. You never know when Rafique gets a wicket and the Aussies respect that.

One irritating aspect of Nazmul is his tendency to try those awful Yorker attempts. I have seen enough and despite success it is something he has yet to master. It also is indicative of the weakness we have in our bowling coaching. I hope the selectors engage a competent fast bowling coach and I hope De Winter should look closely at some of our "pacers".

Nevertheless, from a Bangladesh perspective, the Australian total always looked imposing. To even reach 200 was something I frankly didn’t expect. Everyone expected the Australians to turn the screw but it never happened. The turning point must have been when Ashraful survived a narrow ricochet off his bat that left the ball a few inches from his stumps. Ashraful is known to have many lives but on earlier occasions he has seldom controlled stupid shots. In Sophia he was in control of all the factors that stood in the way of a BD victory.

From there, Ashraful built a very competent innings that characterized – correct shot selection; a much-improved running between wickets; a wide variety of shots (of which the sweeps were thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd). Surprisingly, the hooks were really well placed (even the one where Gillespie had dropped) because that one just lacked a bit extra firepower. In terms of firepower, I had expected Ash to hit harder, indicating a very conscious mindset that was inevitably set by the few chats he had with Bashar.

But on this day Rafique and Aftab had hit the ball harder and hit it when it mattered. Runs were never plundered at a fearful rate and why should they. The team knew that with wickets in hand it was the strokeplay of Ashraful and a watchful stint by Bashar that would be enough for any of the other Batsmen to strike at that total. But lady luck was always on our side and I wouldn’t say it was a match of ‘ifs’. This match wasn’t a lottery as the Australians just didn’t trouble or test our batsmen to the degree that they are capable of.

In fact, most of the crowd had realized this once Ash reached 80. From there, even though Ash’s marathon innings came to an end, it was too late for Australia. The stands started to swell up, as all those who had decided to go home at lunch i.e. at the start of the BD innings, reverted back to the stadium. Including a sizeable Bangle component!

By the 42 over, I felt a bit guilty. I had to hurriedly summon a few of our couch potatoe friends to come back and do their duty to support the team! And embarrassingly, whenever, I came across an Aussie, I heard a similar sentiment-

“oh mate, I thought you guys had heaps of fans, where are they?”

So Bashar’s words ringed true - these days don’t come so often, do they. It is a painful reality that needs to be erased. And sadly, on a day when the sun shone so bright, with the adjacent Taff River in full summer glory, both literally and metaphorically, it was tinged by the sad fact that the crowd in Cardiff could possibly be the lowest of all their tour venues. More people will turn up in the next few matches but the Tigers deserved a full house on the day of their glory, 18th of June 2005!

Edited on, June 20, 2005, 6:27 PM GMT, by oracle.

June 20, 2005, 01:17 PM
good stuff, Oracle. Definitely, front page material.