Even taking into account their impressive run of performances in the 50-over format since the 2015 World Cup, a period in which they have won 6 bilateral series, Bangladesh were not being touted to progress to the semifinals ahead of heavyweights Australia and New Zealand on the eve of the tournament. Proper green-top pitches are now a relic of times gone by, but still whenever a subcontinent team sets their proverbial sails for the shores of their erstwhile colonial masters, their batting line up’s proficiency is always under the spotlight, and such was the case for Bangladesh too. Their quicks, however, must have been thanking their stars at the chance to play on tracks other than the slow and low ones of Mirpur and Fatullah. Fireworks were specially expected from boy wonder Mustafizur Rehman who had impressed the cricket world at large with his fantastic haul of 43 ODI wickets in just 18 matches before the tournament.
Their batting started solidly enough, with Tamim Iqbal scoring a century and Mushfiqur Rahim scoring a better than run-a-ball fifty in their opening game against the hosts.
Tamim Iqbal celebrates his century with Mushfiqur Rahim against England
However, the warning signs were there with their bowling, which managed just two wickets, it wasn’t given much thought given England’s batsmen’s supernatural run of form. Even though Tamim continued to impress in the next game against Australia with a 95, it was only an intervention from the heavens that got Bangladesh a point after they had been bundled out for just 182, and had failed to put the Australian batting under any pressure before the downpour began.
The Oval was engulfed in gloom for much of the day, Australia v Bangladesh, Champions Trophy 2017, The Oval, London, June 5, 2017
Needing a win in their last game against New Zealand to keep their chances alive, Shakib and Mahmudullah produced the innings of their lives to take Bangladesh to victory and eventually the semifinals. Once there, their woefully out-of-sorts bowling line up was trounced by a dominant India.
It really must be a mixed bag of feelings for both the Bangladesh faithful and their team. Pride at reaching the semifinals when before the tournament nobody would have given them a chance to hold their own against the big boys, but also a sense of what could have been had their bowling amounted to more than mere spectators in conditions more favorable than they are used to. That Tamim ranks 3rd in the tournament runs chart and Mosaddek Hussain, a middle order batsman by trade, was their highest wicket taker with a grand total of 3, really sums it all up. Questions will be asked of a visibly deteriorating Mashrafe Mortaza’s suitability to lead this side further and of the inability of their bowling to stand up and be counted at key moments. However Bangladesh can look back at the tournament with plenty of satisfaction, and can build a lasting legacy with this talented group of youngsters.