Mahmudullah, Rubel knock England out

The possibility of elimination clung to England’s pursuit of 276 like stale cigarette smoke with only Jos Buttler, with 65 from 52 balls, summoning the wherewithal under the Adelaide floodlights to fling open the windows and lay down the saucers of vinegar to bring fresh air to a challenge, that without his intervention, would have died of suffocation much sooner.

All around him was staleness as England attempted to play within themselves in search of a challenging, but achievable target, formulated by Mahmudullah‘s assured maiden ODI century; Bangladesh’s first in the World Cup, a personal triumph on a day that roused a nation.

That Bangladesh responded with their best score against England in ODIs was predictable perhaps in a tournament characterised by good pitches, superhero bats and fielding restrictions, but it was a total that England had only successfully chased once before against a major nation in a World Cup.

Symptomatic perhaps of England’s lowly status in one-day cricket, they fell not to spin, but to pace with Rubel Hossain, the fastest bowler on view, finishing with four wickets. Mashrafe Mortaza, a captain held together by bandages as long as anybody can remember, at one point pulled up his trouser leg to reveal the sort of appendages more commonly associated with an orthopaedic ward.

World Cups were about pressure – you just had to cope, the coach Peter Moores had asserted before a match that England had to win to keep their hopes of qualification for the quarter-finals alive. They bowled respectably enough, but with the bat they flunked it, the architects of their own downfall as Ian Bell’s half-century ran out of energy and bad shots jostled for attention with bad luck.

Mahmudullah, for all his elegance, had laboured through 113 previous ODIs without a hundred to his name. But he responded confidently to the urging from Bangladesh’s captain, Mashrafe Mortaza, to respond positively to one of the biggest matches in their history, feasting on any width on the off side. Along with Mushfiqur Rahim, a scampish accomplice, forever bathed in smiles, he added 141 in 24 overs for the fifth wicket.

Twice, Mahmadullah shared in a new World Cup landmark for Bangladesh, also adding 86 in 18 overs for the third wicket with Soumya Sarkar as England’s heartening start – two wickets for James Anderson within seven balls – gradually faded. Bell initially calmed fluttering English hearts with an understated half-century, but by the fact he fell to Rubel, his authority had departed at precisely the time he needed to take control. Bangladesh successfully suffocated his shot square on the off side with two fielders and he fell in search of it.

There was also a capacity for self-harm. Moeen Ali’s run out was doolally, pushing Arafat Sunny to mid-on and then wandering half-heartedly down the pitch as Bell showed no inclination for the run. James Taylor’s leaping, nerve-ridden hack against Taskin Ahmed was equally culpable. Desperate moments from desperate men.

The calls for Hales’ inclusion had finally been answered – the supporters’ favourite, perceived as the man to add impetus to England’s top order. Hales had been dealt a difficult hand – a first innings in what, for England, was essentially a sudden-death affair, and much of it against the slow bowling which has often unsettled him. He batted conservatively, totting up 27 from 34 balls, before Mortaza defeated an indeterminate push.

Three balls after Bell’s departure, Morgan fell into Rubel’s trap, pulling to long leg. Australia has haunted him: four ducks in nine innings since he was awarded the England captaincy on the eve of the tournament, his method seemingly unpicked, his game unproductive whether he bats as if weighed down by responsibility or, as here, trusts to instinct.

England needed 95 from the last 10 overs with only four wickets left, but one of them was Buttler, steely eyed and closing in on his half-century. As if to announce his intent, he lofted his next ball, from the left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny, over extra cover for six. When he gave Muhfiqur his fourth catch, and Chris Jordan was run out next ball – his bat bouncing up as he dived for the crease, a devilishly difficult decision for the third umpire, Chris Fry, and one which left Moores incensed – England needed 38 from 24 and the game was as good as up. Stuart Broad’s midwicket six against Taskin was England’s last flicker. Twice, Robel struck the stumps, leaving Chris Woakes stranded on 42 not out.

Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur had batted with great discernment, their stand finally broken by a run out, 26 balls from the end, when Woakes’ direct hit from short third man beat Mahmudullah’s weary sprint to the striker’s end. Mushfiqur might have sneaked in for his own century had he not skied Broad’s slower off-cutter to cover.

Morgan had inserted Bangladesh with grouchy overnight weather still lingering and Anderson finally bowled the fuller length England wanted. Within seven balls, he had Imrul Kayes and Tamim Iqbal back in the hutch, backed by slips – Jordan and Root holding on. Soumya and Mahmudullah gradually restored order before Jordan deceived Sarkar with a bouncer and had him caught off the glove, trying to evade. Shakib, flat-footed as Moeen found surprising turn, followed in the next over. For such a dynamic cricketer, Jordan can look strikingly arrythmic at times and his prolonged inactivity showed. He performed better at the death, looking nearer to a death bowler than any England bowler in the tournament. Not that such considerations matter now.

England and Bangladesh had not met in any format since the last World Cup, a memorable Chittagong night for Bangladesh as a gleeful ninth-wicket stand between Mahmudullah – him again – and Shafiul Islam carried them home with an over to spare. And now, in a World Cup of bigger scores, flatter pitches and super-hero bats, tey had done it again.

“We thought 275 was chaseable – we’ll have to look at the data,” said Moores. England, staring into their iPads, had tried to measure the World Cup and come up short. Now they are only measuring words. As for Bangladesh, they can receive the joys of a nation that has long endured troubled times.


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