India beat Bangladesh by 5 runs in a memorable encounter which was fiercely contested and laced with controversy. Litton Das was Bangladesh's stand out performer, he briefly threatened to pull off an improbable upset.
That Rain Delay
How very cricket to be talking about the weather when there's a mini-epic to dissect, but let's cut to the chase. After seven overs of Bangladesh's innings, the heavens opened, and a rain delay ensued. Before the players were forced to leave the field, Bangladesh were sitting pretty at 66-0 with from seven overs, the imperious Litton Das on the brink of a thrilling smash and grab.
Setting aside for a moment the condition of the ground when play eventually resumed, Bangladesh were robbed of momentum. Rather than being in-the-zone, batters had to re-adjust to new conditions. If we were to play a game of reasoned hypotheticals, another four or five overs of Litton's batting before the rain began to fall, would have made a huge dent in the target.
And so to the nub of it; I've lost count of the number cricket matches I've been to when hours after a brief deluge, players are still sat in the dressing room trying to amuse themselves, while umpires and ground staff fret and fiddle. I've even witnessed matches being called off amid bright sunshine.
That's not what happened in Adelaide. In a rush to get the game back on, the ground was still wet and slippery in certain patches. Reports of covers being removed, while the rain was still falling, clearly didn't help the situation. The two balls immediately after the resumption to a large extent defined the match. They resulted in an involuntary slip and a fatal stumble; the moisture underfoot undid Litton as he was run out after slipping. It was the damp conditions that led to the first crucial wicket, rather than any of Arshdeep Singh's nerveless yorkers.
"It was the same for both sides" has been a popular refrain in frenzied social media debate. And indeed it was. The sight of Indian support staff on the boundary edge, holding thick bristle brushes intended to clean mud and wet grass from the soles of boots, spoke volumes.
For the avoidance of doubt, I'm not advocating a theory whereby the system has favoured India, I am instead suggesting that the umpires and match officials made a bad call. Just as they had done during the South Africa v Zimbabwe encounter, when similar haste to restart the match led to sub-par fielding conditions. In any case, the widely acknowledged injustice experienced by a team, playing in such a high stakes match against India, only feeds the "India controls cricket" narrative.
As if the loss of impetus and uncertain footing wasn't enough to contend with, Bangladesh also went unrewarded by the unfathomable DLS adjusted target. I'd like to think I'm of average intelligence (others would strongly disagree) but every time I think I've understood the basic principles of DLS calculations, I'm baffled all over again. In this case, Bangladesh were 17 runs ahead of the DLS par score when the rain break began and the required rate was 9.15. Despite not losing any wickets, the required rate was adjusted to 9.44 and four overs were lost. After reading umpteen explanations, I'm still none the wiser about how or why the new target was settled on.
The bitter truth for Bangladesh fans is that even after facing multiple hindrances, with a bit more composure from the middle order, the target was eminently achievable. The hammer blow of losing 4 wickets in 9 balls severely derailed things. Frenetic shot making from the likes of Shakib, Afif and Mosaddek led to their downfall, as bats twisted on impact with the ball or missed it altogether.
Just like great seafood and unspoilt nature, Litton Das and Taskin Ahmed are beginning to lose their status as Bangladesh's best kept secret. Bangladesh fans have become accustomed to Litton's velvet coated drives combined with effortless power hitting, on the biggest stage at Adelaide he unfurled his full repertoire.
His impressive progress in recent times has seen him steadily rise up the batting order in the Test team and to be viewed as potential captaincy material. In ODIs he's a regular fixture opening the innings but the lead up to the T20 World Cup has been characterised by Bangladesh experimenting with various opening pairs, leaving Litton to come in at one down, an unfamiliar and unsettling position. His fifty off 21 balls, was a rare feat as it came during the powerplay and it should have settled any conjecture about his future spot in the line-up.
Taskin's natural hard length and probing accuracy have been well suited to Australian pitches. As a consequence, he was the leading Super 12 wicket taker ahead of the match against India. In Bangladesh's bowling powerplay, he regularly beat the bat and was unlucky not to pick up the wicket of Rohit Sharma as Hasan Mahmud dropped a regulation catch at fine leg. Shakib has shown a tendency to gamble by bowling out his premier bowlers early, in the search for wickets. Taskin was bowled out as early as the seventh over with miserly figures of 0-15. Both Litton and Taskin can expect the cricket world to have sat up and taken notice of their exploits, they certainly deserve wide recognition.
Brighter Days Ahead
Where do Bangladesh go from here? Their progress in this World Cup hangs by a thread, it's dependent on the unlikely combination of South Africa losing both their remaining matches and Bangladesh defeating Pakistan. However, it was never really about this World Cup, as stated by BCB President Nazmul Hassan Papon, who was subsequently ridiculed for his remarks.
Shakib himself downplayed the team's chances of beating India, to the point of nauseating understatement, barely acknowledging his team's strengths. Whether or not it was an unsubtle example of reverse psychology, fans have been dismayed by the lack of overt confidence shown in the team. In general, the approach has contrasted with previous World Cups when the team has patently failed to live up to high expectations. A team that understands it's limitations and plays accordingly, is no bad thing.
But the performance against India gives a glimpse into the future and while imminent success isn't guaranteed, there's much to feel optimistic about for followers of Bangladesh. Selecting four fast bowlers at Adelaide was a real paradigm shift for Bangladesh cricket, which has for so long been dependent on slow bowling.
The fast bowlers have stuck to their task admirably. The batting is still a work in progress; Shakib and Afif have barely got going with bat in hand but Litton, Shanto and Nurul Hasan Sohan have all shown what can be achieved with a touch of self belief and determination. Perhaps Papon was right along, and just maybe the weird and wonderful world of Bangladesh cricket will really give followers something to shout about, next time.