First, the good news: Jason Holder’s West Indies got a record-breaking performance in today’s crucial match-up against Bangladesh in Taunton, which they lost by seven wickets.
The defeat effectively ends the WI chances of making the final four, their tally of three points likely to yield a maximum of nine points, with four matches left, including both New Zealand and India.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, moved up to fifth place on five points, with games against the unfancied Afghans and the disappointing Pakistanis among the four matches left to play.
The Bangladeshis were not required to break any records to seal their victory in this do-or-die encounter. Still, former captain Shakib Al Hasan scored his second successive century to see his side overhaul the not unchallenging 321 for 8 that WI posted, after being asked to bat first in bright, sunny conditions and on a flat pitch.
To achieve it, they had to successfully complete the second-highest run-chase in World Cup history, ending on 322 for 3, just short of Ireland’s 329 for 7 against England in Bengaluru in 2011.
Man-of-the-Match Shakib’s unbeaten 124 off just 99 balls was studded with 16 powerfully struck fours and took his tally of runs in this tournament so far to 384, just over 40 more than Australia’s captain Aaron Finch in second place.
The left-hander, who currently tops the ICC’s all-rounder rankings, was in sublime form. He repeatedly powered booming drives down the field or precise cuts past the hapless WI fielders posted at point and third-man, scoring more than 40% of his runs behind square on the offside. He and opener Tamim Iqbal (48 off 53) put on 69 for the second wicket after Andre Russell induced a false shot from Soumya Sarkar (29 off 23) in the ninth over for Chris Gayle to swallow the catch at slip.
But Shakib was not the only batsman to shine on the day. Shai Hope, coming in at 6 for 1 after Gayle went for a 13-ball duck, put together a solid rather than spectacular innings that deserved a century but ended four short. Instead of settling for sure, slow things when within easy reach of the milestone, Hope moved across his wicket and flicked Mustafizur down behind square, only to find Liton Dass waiting to snaffle the chance.
Dass (94* off 69), drafted into the side in place of Mohammad Mithun, was not about to let the WI have things their way and showed why he should not be left out for future matches. He regularly disdainfully dismissed the WI bowling to all parts of the ground, smashing eight fours and four sixes, including three in succession in a Shannon Gabriel over.
In partnership with Shakib, he took the score from 133 for three all the way to the final target.
Evin Lewis (70 off 67) and a blistering, near-2019 tournament-record 50 off 25 balls by Shimron Hetmyer also left the West Indies support hopeful that at last the losing ODI sequence against the Bangladeshis—seven losses in the last nine games—was about to be broken at just the right time.
But not for the first time, Lewis perished attempting another big hit just as he looked to be getting on top of the bowling after a sluggish start.
And Hetmyer too, not for the first time either, gave his hand away when he was already forcing the Bangladeshi captain Masrafe Mortaza to look for new bowling options to stem the flow of runs. Between overs 30 and 40, Mortaza used six different bowlers, his only reward before the 40th over being Nicholas Pooran’s wicket, caught at long-on in over number 33.
Once again, Sheldon Cottrell, already in the 2019 World Cup highlight reel for his spectacular, running, one-handed catch down at long-leg off Australia’s Steve Smith, caught the eye with his fielding. He produced a piece of absolute brilliance to get rid of Tamim and force TV’s Score Predictor to give WI a 40% chance.
Following through down the wicket after the opener had followed a defensive push down the wicket, the left-handed quickie swooped on the ball and, in one fluid motion, knocked back the batsman’s middle stump with Tamim diving unsuccessfully to make his ground.
As bowler, though, like his team-mates, Cottrell could make little impression from 22 yards away. Apart from Soumya, the only scalp they claimed was that of Mushfiqur, who tickled one from Oshane Thomas down the leg-side to give Hope yet another catch behind the wicket.
Holder, having contributed a hard-hitting 33 from 15 with the bat after Andre Russell fell cheaply again, took one of the new balls with Cottrell. His opening five-over spell from the River End was the longest of any bowler. He tried to ring in the changes, making 12 of them by the time the innings ended in the 42nd over.
But only Gayle and Oshane Thomas bowled two-over spells and the changes were largely to no avail, the West Indians still apparently trying to reproduce the destructive short-pitched magic of the Pakistan game on 31 May.
In addition, the skipper never seemed able to get the field in just the right places and, although many Bangladeshi shots went through or into the air, only one yielded a half-chance.
At 143 for 3 in the 22nd over, Shakib tried to swing Thomas over the leg-side and sent a skier down towards Shannon Gabriel on the fine-leg boundary. The ball eventually landed safely between Hope, running back in a vain effort to get under the ball, and Gabriel who, fearful of a possible collision with Hope, never really committed to the catch.
It mirrored the West Indies’ day, hope/Hope in the picture at the beginning but in the end their prayer unanswered by Shannon/the Angel Gabriel.
Gabriel, by the way, was responsible for the record the West Indies broke. It came in his last over, off which he conceded 24 runs, making it the most expensive over in the tournament so far.
The bad news is that the record is not likely to stand; WI still have four matches to play and, with Russell now manifestly down to about 60% fitness, Gabriel looks likely to continue to play.