Cricket World Cup: Bangladesh sweep aside West Indies as they push for semi-final berth

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Bangladesh easily chased down a target of 322 in less than 42 overs to defeat the West Indies by seven wickets in a dominant display at Taunton.

Man of the Match Shakib Al Hasan smashed an unbeaten 124 as he and Litton Das put on 189 to lead the Tigers to the second highest run chase in World Cup history.

It was an absorbing game of twists of turns, until Bangladesh established authority and control in the second innings and ran out convincing victors.

The competition is roughly half-way through the group stage and this match was a must-win for both teams if they were going to have a chance of reaching the semi-finals.

It was a brilliant start with the ball by The Tigers’ opening pair of Mashrafe Mortaza and Mohammad Saifuddin. The captain had said before the match that he wanted to take more responsibility with the ball, and he kept Chris Gayle trapped at one end with a maiden over to begin.

Saifuddin also bowled a tight line and bowled well in tandem with his captain. His disciplined bowling paid dividends in the fourth when he took the early wicket of Gayle for a duck, caught behind by Mushfiqur, making the score 6-1.

Bangladesh continued this momentum into the rest of the first powerplay, which finished with West Indies on a miserly 32-1. This was the lowest score after 10 overs at the tournament so far, and testament to how well Bangladesh started.

The next over Evin Lewis, realising that they needed to score faster, smashed Mortaza for six over wide long-on as the Windies made 10 runs off the over.

After their poor start, Lewis and Shai Hope did a fantastic job of rebuilding the innings for West Indies. Together they put on a century partnership and built a platform for the Windies.

The 23rd over was a big one for the Men in Maroon as they reached many milestones. Lewis reached his half-century. The West Indies reached the 100-mark. And two consecutive boundaries for Lewis brought up his century-partnership with Hope.

The next over Lewis tried slog-swept Shakib into the stand behind deep square-leg for six. But just when he thought that he had his number, he was caught at long on due to a shot that did not connect.

During the 31st over, the run rate crept up to above five runs per over for the first time. The next ten were going to be very different to the thirty that came before as the West Indies were targeting 300.

Pooran however was to first leave prematurely for 25 from 30 balls, caught out at long on, as Shakib struck again. The Windies would have no doubt wanted more from their talented youngster.

Every cloud though has a silver lining. His departure brought Shimron Hetmyer to the crease. And he was not here to mess around.

Hetmyer scored rapidly from the get go as he hit boundaries and ran the hard yards and sent the run rate graph soaring upwards in a game-changing innings.

After scoring eight runs off the 34th over, which included a Hetmyer smash to cow corner, Saifuddin then went for fifteen runs in the 36th. First he hooked hard for a big six. Then an even huger hit for another maximum as Hetmyer moved to 26 from 12.

As Hetmyer was hitting the pace bowlers, Bangladesh brought on the spinners. But he hit both Mehidy and Mosaddek for boundaries with backfoot shots either side of the wicket.

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If Bangladesh were to win, they would have to equal their 322 that they achieved against Scotland in Nelson, New Zealand in the last World Cup.

If that target looked daunting, the Bangladesh batsmen did not show it. Openers Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar got the Tigers off to swift start as we have now become accustomed to.

Soumya Sarkar played his stylish strokes, and he brought up the fifty for Bangladesh with a six. The next ball however, Dre Russell bowled another short one, but this time at his body. He tried to guide it to third man, but only managed to guide it into the huge hands of Chris Gayle at slip.

West Indies, whose bowling is usually very impressive, particularly at the start of the innings, was under fire as they did not bowl in the right areas consistently.

The World’s number one all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan came in and made an immediate impact, in a sign of what was to come later. Tamim also was not content knocking it around and being the anchor, as he played aggressive shots when they were there to be hit.

At the end of the first powerplay it was Advantage Bangladesh as they registered 70-1. Tamim and Shakib continued to score at a high run rate for the next seven overs, as they both played glorious shots.

The Bangladeshis brought up the 100 in the 14th over, as this second wicket partnership were leading the charge.

Completely against the run of play though, Tamim fell two runs short of his half-century, thanks to an incredible piece of fielding by Sheldon Cottrell in the 18th over. He gathered the ball and through directly at the stumps to run out a diving Tamim, who had been out of his crease, by a fraction of a second.

Many would have thought that Mushfiqur Rahim would come to the crease to combine once more with Shakib. But it was surprise to see him dismissed so early, caught behind by Hope off Oshane Thomas.

The highly talented youngster Liton Das came in next, but at this stage, one would not have predicted the ease with which they would both dismantle the West Indies bowling attack and secure Bangladesh victory.

Shakib reached his half-century in the 21st over. He began to start playing shots giving the impression that he had no respect for the bowlers.

Liton Das joined the big-hitting party with flashy cuts and pulls, as the pair oozed with self-confidence.

West Indies were struggling with Andre Russell pulling up injured on more than one occasion. They also lacked a specialist spinner who could have challenged the authority of the Bangladesh batsmen.

The use of the short ball has been effective thus far in the World Cup for the Windies pace attack. But perhaps they have become a quartet of one-trick ponies.

Bangladesh’s top order batsmen however were very adept against the short ball and were certainly not going to be intimidated by them. If anything they were a launch pad for easy runs.

The West Indies were not going to get close to getting back in the match as Shakib and Litton Das motored along. The rate at which they were scoring would suggest that they were batting with reckless abandon, but these two craftsmen actually played a measured innings.

In these middle overs, the West Indies might have lacked fire power. But it still required first class execution from Shakib and Litton, and they obliged.

In the 34th over, Shakib raised his bat in the air to celebrate a thoroughly-deserved century from 83 balls. And in the next over, Litton Das registered his half-century (51 from 43 balls).

The runs did not slow, partly due to the sloppiness of West Indies’ bowling. Oshane Thomas bowled three wides in a row, and his team bowled a total of 25 throughout the innings, which in modern white ball cricket is a gift.

By the 37th over the required run rate was down to below 4 an over. But there was no slowing down from Litton Das who looked like he was in a hurry. He smashed three sixes in a row.

The first six was a pull shot to mid wicket. For the second, a launched a shot over long off. The third was a bouncer which was dispatched over fine leg.

It was impressive but now no longer surprising that Bangladesh reached 300 before the end of the 40th over.

Litton Das was the man to finish the job. In the 41st over, he walked forward and spectacularly struck him through extra cover, and leaned back for a trademark cut over backward point.

His pull shot for four in the 42nd over sealed the victory by seven wickets and with 51 balls remaining.

It was a marvellous team effort, but the unbeaten partnership of 189 by Shakib Al Hasan and Litton Das was one of the highlights of the tournament so far.

Shakib, the best all rounder in the world, has now registered scores of 75, 64, 121 and 124*at this edition of the Cricket World Cup.

For a team that promise so much, the West Indies finished this game with little more than a whimper.

From their perspective, it was a sad end which, at least for the first half had been a thrilling contest.

To qualify for the semi-finals now, they will have to win the remainder of their matches, including two tough ones against India and New Zealand.

At this tournament, Bangladesh have been quite unlucky. After thrashing South Africa, they were unfortunate to lose to New Zealand.

Admittedly they were outplayed by England, but were very unlucky to have their game against Sri Lanka, which they most likely would have won, rained off.

This incredibly impressive victory against the West Indies makes Bangladesh serious contenders for a place in the semi-finals.

If they play like they did today, there is not a team at this tournament that they cannot defeat.

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