Bangladesh captain Masrafe Mortaza should have spoken to Michael Holding before he won the toss and asked victorious England skipper Eoin Morgan to take first strike.
“That greenish sheen on the top of the pitch,” the former-West-Indies-pacer-turned-international-television-commentator warned several times during subsequent commentary, “is a mirage.”
England shattered all Mortaza’s illusions about a helpful surface by blasting a record 386 for 6 off their 50 overs, the seventh successive time they have crossed the 300-mark in an ODI innings.
Bangladesh, who beat the 2019 hosts both in 2011 and 2015, leading former England skipper Mike Atherton to style them “a bit of a bogey side for England,” were no real match on the day. Despite an impressive, fighting century by top-ranked all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, they lost by a 106-run margin, managing only 280 in reply.
On a blustery Cardiff day, Shakib and former captain Mustafizur Rahim, (44 off 50), alone provided any real resistance, the two veterans put on 106 runs for the third wicket. However, they never quite threatened to take the game away from England. And no other batsman reached 30.
By the time Mustafizur fell to a sharp Jason Roy catch at point off a leading edge, more than half the overs had already been completed. And when Shakib (121 off 119, 12 X 4, 1 X 6) was dismissed by a yorker from Ben Stokes (3/26) in the 40th over, the result seemed no longer in doubt.
Over at Taunton, 106 was also the exact number of runs all ten Afghanistan wickets added to the opening partnership of 66 on a fine summer’s day. That forgettable batting performance allowed New Zealand, who won the toss, to carve out a seemingly routine 7-wicket win over them and remain at the top of the table with six points from their three games.
Apart from openers Hasratullah Zazai (34 off 28) and Noor Ali Zadran (31 off 38), Hasmatullah (59 off 99) was the only contributor of note. Thanks to Man-of-the-Match Jimmy Neesham (5/31) and Lockie Ferguson (4/37), the Kiwis virtually scythed through the Afghan batting.
After Aftab Alam (3/45) knocked back Martin Guptill (0) with the first ball of the innings (0) and then accounted for Colin Munro (22 off 24) in his fourth over, skipper Kane Williamson (78* off 98) and Ross Taylor (48 off 52) combined to see their side almost to their 172-run target. It was not the first time and is unlikely to be the last.
In Taunton, Man-of-the-Match Roy was in complete control when England batted. Dismissed cheaply in the two previous matches and having dropped a crucial catch in the defeat by Pakistan, the England opener had something to prove. He did it in typically belligerent fashion, blasting his way to 153 off 120 balls with five sixes and 14 fours.
He and fellow opener Jonny Bairstow (51 off 50) were only separated in the 20th over after they had added 128. Joe Root (21 off 29) and Morgan got starts (35 off 33) without carrying on. And after his century against Pakistan on June 3, the in-form Jos Buttler (64 off 44) again came good.
Fellow pacers Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett also enjoyed themselves at the end after Bangladesh had claimed three quick scalps. Woakes smashed 18 off only eight balls. Plunkett, even more devastating and demoralising, clobbered 27 off just nine to ensure that the task would be beyond the game Bangladeshis.
Mehidy Hasan Miraz (2/67) and Mohammad Saifuddin (2/78) were Bangladesh’s best bowlers while Shakib’s ten overs cost 71.
When Bangladesh batted, Bairstow took four catches, keeping wicket instead of Buttler, who remained off the field because of “hip tightness,” (as reported by Nasser Hussain, it sounded like hepatitis!)
England’s quicks needed little assistance from the deceptive surface to make the early breakthrough and grab the psychological advantage. Capable of building the kind of foundation that would make the challenging target accessible, hard-hitting openers Tamim Iqbal (19 off 29) and Soumya Sarkar (2 off 8), did not fire on the day. Sarkar departed early, bowled by Jofra Archer (3/29) with the score just eight. Tamim (19) never found his rhythm and joined his partner in the pavilion at 63 for 2.
After that came the veterans’ stand. But once Shakib left at 219 for 5, the innings went into steady decline, the last five batsmen surrendering in just over nine overs for an additional 61 runs.
Back in England, Taylor and Williamson steadied the New Zealand ship, taking the score from 41 for 2 to 130 for three before Alam bowled Taylor. Tom Latham joined his skipper and the pair took the Kiwis over the line at 173 for 3.
Favoured by the luck of the draw, the New Zealanders have so far had only opponents whom they would have expected to defeat. So far, so good.
Next up for them are India on Thursday and South Africa the following Wednesday. They will certainly have to raise their game to get the better of Virat Kohli’s confident men, who doubtless see themselves as potential champions, and Faf du Plessis’ wounded troops, who now enjoy no margin for error.
South Africa are up against Jason Holder’s West Indies tomorrow while Bangladesh have Sri Lanka on Tuesday before the Bangladeshis and WI meet next week Monday. All four of these teams are in the “group of death,” comprising the seven sides vying for the one place left by the expected qualification of Australia, England and India.
For South Africa as things stand, any slip-up could mean a long slide—all the way out of contention; after three games, they are still to get their first win.
Holder and his men will be hoping to ensure that this remains the status quo at the end of the day tomorrow.
And West Indian supporters will be hoping that, after the Australia reversal, their captain has learnt the important lesson of international cricket that the time to hit an opposition batsman is precisely when he is down.