Vol. 5 Num 1022 Tue. April 17, 2007  

In Front of the Box
No smile this time

There will be much talk of the "luck of the Irish" in papers around the world today -- but that cliché is out of place here. There was no providence involved in how Ireland went about dismantling Bangladesh. The Irish were well prepared, took calculated risks, kept their nerve, and outplayed the Tigers for a 74 run win. For the first time in this World Cup, I was disappointed by Bangladesh.

The Tigers may have been well beaten in the past few weeks by Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand -- no shame there, after all, these are the confirmed semi-finalists. But this loss really stung. Here was a good chance for the Tigers to put some real distance between themselves and the ICC Associates, and build on their heroics against India and South Africa. Instead they capitulated, and wiped the smile off my face.

Bangladesh was thrown off from the start by Johnston's brave decision to bat first on a tricky wicket -- a first taste of some inspired captaincy. He wasn't about to let Bangladesh's spinners choke his batsmen later in the day when conditions would suit them.

That he clean-bowled his opposite number to wrap up the game summarised Johnston's day. He led from the front with both the bat and ball, and his bowling changes did not let the tempo drop -- bringing about some vital wickets. His "funky chicken" wasn't bad either.

243 was a strong total from Ireland, helped by some sloppy fielding, and presented a daunting task considering that the highest score chased down in the tournament so far is 248. But we know that Bangladesh have both the talent and depth to maintain a competitive scoring rate over an innings if they stick to their plan of keeping wickets in hand for the final push.

However, it wasn't to be -- and once again the batsmen were undone by a lack of composure. The manner in which the Tigers went about their batting felt more like a 20-20 match -- they certainly seemed in some sort of hurry.

No fan of cricket would want to see the natural flair of the Bangladesh stroke makers unnecessarily stifled, but on the other hand, the Tigers' batsmen need to develop a greater sense of awareness -- there is no need to chase the big shots when the situation doesn't require it.

Having been restricted by some tight bowling from Langsford-Smith, the opening batsmen were quick to lose their patience, and their approach set the tone for the rest of the innings. I started getting nervous when Tamim began flashing wildly at balls that were well wide of his off stump. His dismissal -- bowled dancing down the wicket chasing a consecutive boundary typified the Bangladesh effort.

As inspired as the Irish captain looked, Bashar was out of sorts -- especially running between the wickets. Bashar has not had a good tournament with the bat, and you can sense a loss in confidence from Bangladesh's most senior batsman.

His hesitation this time putting unnecessary pressure on Ashraful -- and once the danger-man went so did Bangladesh's chances. Bashar did his best to eke out an innings, but it was never going to be enough. Irish eyes were certainly smiling. (Here the cliché fits.)

This tournament has demonstrated that the Tigers have the talent to compete with the best. But it has also underlined a serious lack of consistency that is frustrating for their fans.

Their next game against the West Indies might not have any bearing on the outcome of this World Cup, but Bangladesh will want to make a good fist of it, and fly home on a high. Prior to this match they were on course for a rapturous welcome on arrival at Zia International, and now owe it to themselves to collect.