In the 24 hours since Bangladesh defeated South Africa I have received an influx of comments from pro-Bangladeshi supporters ranging from telling me how stupid I was for thinking that Bangladesh were bad through to suggesting that Bangladesh beating South Africa wasn’t an upset through to suggesting that my predictions are really terrible. As I pointed out, I have a success rate of 84.3% in predicting World Cup matches since 1999, across 5 World Cups and 245 matches (237 of which ended in a result), with 199 out of 237 being predicted correctly, and I predicted my share of upsets too. I wasn’t predicting Bangladesh to lose because I am stupid or against Bangladesh or biased in some way. I was predicting Bangladesh to lose because everything suggested that they would lose.
Upsets do happen in World Cups. Ireland beat England once. Bangladesh beat England to make the semi-finals back in 2015. Bangladesh beat Pakistan in 1999. But to suggest that they are not upsets is just simply lying.
South Africa were, pre-tournament, 4th favourites to win the tournament, and were ranked 3rd on the ICC tournament ladder. They did well in the warm-up matches, beating Sri Lanka easily and were well on track to beating West Indies before rain came. They lost to England, the tournament favourites, hosts, and world number 1, in their opener, a match they probably should have won, but they were far from being in bad form.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, were on a string of terrible form, including multiple losses to Afghanistan, were ranked 7th, and had a huge loss to India in their warm-up match.
Nothing suggested that Bangladesh would win. Absolutely nothing.
Now, Bangladesh had a few people who stuck their necks out to pick a win. Good on them. I correctly predicted Bangladesh to beat England in the 2015 World Cup too. Well done if you predicted it. I didn’t pick it. It certainly wasn’t predictable to me.
Twitter did a poll and 95% of people voting picked South Africa to win. That’s 20-1. South Africa weren’t just favourites: nobody thought Bangladesh were any chance at all.
Every preview picked South Africa, most by a big margin. We had seen how easily New Zealand beat Sri Lanka, so I for one was thinking that South Africa would win by that kind of margin. After all, that’s the kind of form Bangladesh are in, and they don’t tend to do too well away from home, especially outside of the subcontinent, while South Africa do.
The analysis of the match showed that it was about things going right for Bangladesh (and wrong for South Africa) and rolling with it. It was a string of things going right for one side and wrong for the other, combined with South Africa making an ultimately foolish decision to put all of their eggs in one basket, by picking an extra bowler and bowling first. It should have worked but when it didn’t, thanks to incredible defiance from Shakib al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahman, there was no backup.
To say that that was predictable, though, is an insult and is completely false. Shakib and Mushfiqur each average 36, not 75, and their strike rates are 81 not 100. They both not only scored more than twice their average but at a considerably faster rate than they usually do.
This was Bangladesh’s highest ever score and by a considerable margin too. It wasn’t just their highest ever World Cup score – it was their highest score in any one day international, against any team, and they still only just won.
Most teams have their highest scores against weak teams, or at least teams with weak bowling, which was most certainly not South Africa. South Africa have one of the best bowling line-ups in the world, and they were playing with an extra bowler.
It was beyond incredible. It was amazing. It was unbelievable. It was a once in a lifetime performance.
And it is most certainly something that all Bangladeshi cricket fans should be proud of.
It reminds me of when Bangladesh beat Australia in a test match, when they had to play out of their skins to do it, and had everything go right, and it was still close.
They are the kinds of things to celebrate, to be proud of, not to lie about and pretend that they were predictable.
When Sri Lanka won the 1996 World Cup, did they go around saying that they always knew they were going to win? Of course not.
Nor did Pakistan when they came from nowhere to win the 1992 World Cup.
Nor did Australia when they shockingly beat England 4-0 in the 1989 Ashes, when they had a terrible side.
Recently, when Australia came back from 0-2 down to beat India 3-2 in an ODI series, it was a shock, an upset, not the least with Ashton Turner, who nobody had even heard of, scoring big runs at the end in the 3rd match. We didn’t expect it – it was an upset. It was such an upset that Ashton Turner didn’t even make the squad, let alone the final XI, in the World Cup.
Upsets are great. Well done on them. Perform upsets often enough and it starts to become predictable.
Afghanistan are favourites to beat Sri Lanka in their next match, which is a huge achievement. If they do win that match, it won’t be an upset.
But Bangladesh beating South Africa was an upset. It was one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
There is a top 10 list somewhere of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, and I bet that that match is going to feature on it. Maybe someone will put it 11th, or 12th, but it’s certainly up there. It’s certainly the biggest upset of this tournament.
As of writing, Pakistan has come back from losing badly to West Indies in their opener (and losing to Afghanistan in the warm-up) to post an incredible 8/348 against England and might win. If they do, that will be an upset too.
But Bangladesh’s win over South Africa is bigger.
Just saying it isn’t an upset doesn’t suddenly magically change it to become predictable.
When only 5% of people in the entire world think it was a chance of happening, that makes it an upset.
Bangladesh cricket fans need to be more gracious in victory. It is a trait that good teams have. Don’t put down your opposition after you’ve beaten them. Praise them for being good, and you being better.
Enjoy your upset. You deserved it.
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