With his team bidding to overhaul a West Indies total of 142 for 7 to win today’s do-or-die ICC T20 World Cup clash, Bangladesh captain Mohammad Mahmudullah needed four runs off the last ball of the innings. He swung at a full Andre Russell delivery just wide of off-stump. And missed.
Earlier, in the WI innings, an under-the-weather captain Kieron Pollard returned to the middle—after initially retiring ill—to hit pacer Mustafizur Rahaman’s last ball of the 20th over for six.
It was only one example of the fine margins at play today in the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, where, at the third time of asking, Pollard’s defending champions secured their first win of the Super 12s, winning by three runs to stay alive in the tournament.
Bangladesh have two fixtures left but it is lights out. For WI, on the other hand, there is a respite–but only temporary!
The ‘Men in Maroon’ play Sri Lanka next Thursday and then Australia on Sunday. To even have a chance of advancing, they must win both games and hope the other results and the net run-rate favours them.
Once more, it was a patchy performance from the two-time champions, who were not convincing with the bat and often unconvincing in the field today. But they held their nerve, vice-captain Nicholas Pooran (40 off 22 balls, 4 x 6, 1 x 4) earning Man-of-the-Match honours.
“We talk about batsmen taking responsibility and doing what’s needed for the team,” said Pooran, in the post-match interview. “The batting hasn’t clicked yet and we needed to put our hands up. I felt as a cricketer and a batsman, I needed to put my hand up.”
Today, in what he described as a ‘tactical move’, Pooran batted at number seven. Backs against the wall, WI made some ultimately decisive tinkering to their plans today, which probably came as a relief to the team and its supporters alike.
Pollard finally—wisely!—decided the West Indies batting could do with some stabilising.
Roston Chase, described by the skipper on the eve of the tournament as ‘the stabiliser’ , finally made his T20I debut. Helping to stave off a middle-order collapse, his 39 off 46 balls with two fours was not pretty but very necessary.
With the bat, Jason Holder, moved from the reserves straight into the starting XI, chipped in a vital 15 off 5 balls with a pair of sixes, before claiming 1/22 with the ball and completing two vital catches. It would be redundant at this point to say WI had missed him on Saturday and Tuesday.
Both calls played their part in a thrilling affair.
No such luck with veteran batsman Chris Gayle, though. After batting at 3 against England and 4 versus South Africa, the ‘Universe Boss’ opened today. So far in the competition, he has managed scores of 13, 12 and 4.
It is saying something that, at this stage, Gayle is arguably in the XI on merit. Lendl Simmons was off-colour in his two showings while Darren Bravo’s own rocky patch has lasted for at least as long as Liverpool forward Mo Salah’s hot streak.
The other batting option is Andre Fletcher. but his dropped catch on the mid-wicket boundary off Mahmudullah off the third-to-last ball of the Bangladesh innings might not exactly have West Indies fans looking forward to seeing him again.
Opener Evin Lewis made just six runs (1 x 4) before he went off the last ball of the third over, caught by Mushfiqur Rahim off Rahman off the last ball of the third over. And if WI struggled against South Africa with the talismanic opener on fire, without him, well, the last time the T&T opener failed, WI were all out for 55.
Shimron Hetmyer’s contribution, 9 off 7, 1 x 4, was again short though not particularly sweet and his departure allowed Chase and Pollard to put together a 30-run partnership off six overs. Just as fans might have expected the pair to begin their acceleration, the powerfully built skipper retired ill in the 13th over.
Off the very next ball,Russell was sent back—despite not yet having faced a ball!
Backing up at the non-striker’s end, the explosive all-rounder was dismissed when pacer Taskin Ahmed extended his foot to stop a Chase drive but only managed to deflect the ball on to the stumps.
It was akin to being fired on your off-day.
At that stage, WI were 62 for 4. Pooran’s fiery cameo, successive sixes by Holder and Pollard’s gutsy return to the fray—along with some sloppy Bangladeshi fielding—saw the defending champs claw their way to 142.
“I have been working very, very hard for the last couple of months,” said Pooran. “Things just hadn’t gone my way. I hadn’t been doing myself justice, giving away my wicket. I’m always confident and positive about my attitude and skills.”
The vice-captain felt they had given Bangladesh a ‘challenging’ total.
“It’s not a 170 track,” said Pooran, before he led West Indies into the field. “It’s tough to hit cross-batted shots to back-of-a-length balls… This 142 is like 160. I’m very happy with the total from where we were.”
Bangladesh did not look too put out; only they kept losing wickets at vital moments. Holder bowled opener Mohammad Naim for 17 in the sixth over, with the score at 29 for 2.
And when spinner Akeal Hosein had Soumya Sarkar caught by Gayle for 17, it had advanced to 60 for 3.
But Hayden Walsh Jr uncharacteristically grassed two catches and there were a few missed stumpings—as West Indies mirrored Bangladesh’s uninspired showing in the field.
Then, off the last ball of the 19th over, Holder, always a formidable presence on the long-on boundary, extended his considerable frame like a fireman’s ladder to haul in Liton Das’ lofted, six-bound drive off Dwayne Bravo. The opener had contributed 44 of the score of 130 for 5, enough to leave Bangladesh needing just 13 runs to win off the last six balls.
Pooran’s men most likely did not know it but the Bangladeshis have never quite managed that, their best last-over score in a T20I being 12.
Off Russell’s first five balls, Mahmudallah and Afif Hossain got eight runs, including one bye. And the theatrics included an eloquent, exasperated DJ Bravo glare at Fletcher when he dropped the skipper off the fourth ball, provoking groans all around the Caribbean.
After that, the Bangladesh captain attempted to ride his luck and seize the moment. But Russell’s delivery danced tantalisingly past him untouched, like a gorgeous girl with a muscular, attentive boyfriend in tow at a Carnival fete.
For Bangladesh in the UAE, party done; the WI dance on, all left feet.
If they are to give themselves a chance of getting to the World Cup semi-final round, they must capitalise on their two remaining chances.
And even then…
West Indies 142 for 7 (Nicholas Pooran 40, Roston Chase 39; Shoriful Islam 2/22, Mahedi Hasan 2/27)
Bangladesh 139 for 5 (Liton Das 44, Mohammad Mahmudullah 31*; Jason Holder 1/22, Akeal Hosein 1/24)
Man of the Match: Nicholas Pooran
Result: WI won by three runs