The roar of the Bangla Tiger reverberated through The Oval on Sunday. Cheering their numerous fans here, Bangladesh downed an injury-hit South Africa by 21 runs in their opening match of the World Cup. While Bangladesh enjoyed a perfect start to their campaign, the Proteas, who lost their second match in a row, have plenty to sweat about ahead of their next match against India at Southampton on June 5.
To add to South Africa’s worries, their casualty ward had a new member on Saturday. Fast bowler Lungi Ngidi. After bowling just four overs, he left the field due to a pulled hamstring and is ruled out of the clash against India on June 5. Veteran fast bowler Dale Steyn continued to stay out due to a shoulder injury.
Becoming the first Asian team to conquer the short ball with a superb counter-attack, Bangladesh came out all guns blazing to put up 330 for six – their highest World Cup score ever. After Soumya Sarkar provided the initial momentum with a stroke filled 42-run cameo (30b, 9×4), half-centuries by Shakib Al Hassan (75, 84b, 8×4, 1×6) and Mushfiqur Rahim (78, 80b, 8×4), and a late flourish by Mahmudullah (46 not out, 33b, 3×4, 1×6) and Mosaddek Hossain (26, 20b, 4×4) helped Bangladesh to their sixth 300-plus total since the 2015 World Cup.
Chasing the biggest total ever to win a World Cup game, the Proteas, without the experience of Hashim Amla, who sat out after being hurt by a Jofra Archer bouncer in their first match, gave it a decent fight, but finished at 309 for eight. As many as five South Africa batsmen – skipper Faf du Plessis (62, 53b, 5×4, 1×6), Aiden Markram (45, 56b, 4×4), Rassie van der Dussen (41, 38b, 2×4, 1×6), David Miller (38, 43b, 2×4), who was picked for this game to replace Amla, and JP Duminy (45, 37b, 4×4) threatened for a while, but failed to capitalise on their starts.
A tragic run out of opener Quinton de Cock (23), who was involved in a bad mix-up with Markram reflected the chaos in the South African ranks. The credit for that must also go to keeper Rahim, who, after dropping a chance that De Kock offered, recovered well to hit the stumps after rushing quickly towards the ball.
Bangladesh’s ace in the bowling pack – left-arm seamer Mustafizur Rahman took three wickets, while talented speedster Mohammad Saifuddin chipped in with two. Bangladesh’s spinners, Shakib and Mehidy Hasan Miraz were both economical and provided the crucial breakthroughs. With the required run rate mounting, Du Plessis went down track, but was foxed by the off spin of Miraz. Markram became Shakib’ 250th ODI victim as he lost his stumps while playing off the backfoot.
Earlier, after they were put in by South Africa in what didn’t seem like a wise decision in flat conditions, Sarkar inspired Bangladesh with a series of pulls and beautiful drives through cover and straight down the ground. The attacking left-hander added 60 for the first wicket in 50 balls with the unusually sedate Tamim Iqbal, who hung his bat outside his off stump, before edging behind to Andile Phehlukwayo.
After Sarkar was caught superbly by a diving Quinton de Kock top-edging a slow bouncer from Morris, Shakib and Mushfiqur took over, adding 142 at run-a-ball for the third wicket to raise hopes of a massive total. Ever since he moved to the No 3 position, Shakib is averaging around 50 – which tells you how much he loves batting there. The all-rounder cut and swept the spinners with aplomb.