When the itinerary was drawn up, April 15 was marked out as a special date. Had the results gone according to the seedings, it would have been India against Pakistan in front of a full house at the Kensington Oval, with a semi-final place on the line. As it is, with both having slumped so meekly in the first round, it becomes a big clash of a different kind, with both Bangladesh and Ireland desperate not to finish bottom of the Super Eights table.
Bangladesh have already supplied the Indians with return tickets and put a serious dent in South Africa’s World Cup ambitions, while Ireland’s victory over Pakistan at Sabina Park was one of those “I was there” days to savour. But both have found life a lot tougher at the top, with Australia and New Zealand handing out heavy defeats and a reminder that the consistency which separates the best sides from the rest doesn’t come overnight.
With the Kensington Oval pitch assisting the quicker bowlers in the morning, the toss will be vital. Both Ireland and Bangladesh were out of depth against the new ball on a surface where the ball reared up from a good length, and neither will want to be in a similar position on Sunday. The likes of Glenn McGrath, Shaun Tait and Sajid Mahmood may not be in opposition, but even Mashrafe Mortaza and Boyd Rankin will fancy their chances of doing serious damage if they bowl first.
After the drubbings meted out by New Zealand and Australia, the Irish are desperate to lift the mood. “It’s not nice to be beaten like this,” said Adrian Birrell, the Ireland coach, after the Australia game. “But we’ve got to focus on the next game. It [the Bangladesh game] was the biggest fixture. We’re still a good side and we’ve got two more games to show that.”
After the manner in which they dismissed South Africa, and pushed England to the finish, Bangladesh will surely start favourites, though some of the senior players will have disturbing memories of the last World Cup where they lost to unfancied Canada.
That was another team, in another time, but Habibul Bashar, the captain, certainly won’t be taking anything for granted. “We’ve seen Ireland’s games on TV,” he said. “They’re not a bad team at all. They have some good batsmen and their pacers are fine.”
In addition to Mortaza and the impressive Syed Rasel, Bangladesh can also call on their trio of left-arm spinners, and Trent Johnston, the Irish captain, had no doubt that they would be the main threat as his side sought a first win in the Super Eights.
“They pose a different challenge,” he said. “One of the areas where we need to play better is [against] spin bowling. We’ve been squeezed by the spinners in the middle and after watching Bangladesh beating South Afica, we know they have good spinners. We’ll do our best to counter them.”
Ireland are likely to be boosted by the return of Andrè Botha, whose accurate medium-pace and middle-order batting have been sorely missed in the last two encounters. As for Bangladesh, there are unlikely to be any changes, though a few more runs from Bashar - he has just 61 from six innings - would be most welcome.
“I’m not putting any pressure on the players,” said Bashar when asked how important this match was for his side. “We’ve already had a very good World Cup. We’ll just go out there and enjoy it. Two games remain and we want to go home in a good mood.”
Source:Cricket WorldcupMore on:Australia, Cricket, Glenn McGrath, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sajid Mahmood, Shaun Tait, South Asia, Super Eight, World Cup
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