With just 5 needed off the final over, still 3 wickets in hand and the big-hitting Glenn Maxwell on strike with 55 off 31 to his name already, Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza turns to his match winner Shakib al Hasan to bowl the final over. Shakib had already set up this chance by scoring 127 off 71 balls to give Bangladesh a challenging total of 308 to defend, when otherwise they looked like getting perhaps 200 at most. He also got rid of both openers earlier and has conceded just 28 off his 9 overs. Even still defending such a small target seems unlikely but if anyone can do it Shakib is the man.
The first ball looks like being the end of the innings as Maxwell skies it high into the air and it looks for all the world like it is going to go over the fence for 6 but Mushfiqur Rahim has run back at incredible speed and with a dive high into the air he catches it right on the boundary’s edge and what could have been the winning runs instead sees a new man come on strike. The batsmen had ran, but they crossed twice, meaning that the new man, Nathan Lyon, has to face the music. The first ball he faces somehow misses all 3 stumps then the next one, the third of the over, is edged behind but is just missed by Mushi and he takes the single to get the big hitting Pat Cummins on strike, who has already scored 17 off 15 balls to date. Cummins gets one right in his hitting zone and goes for a big one but he picks out the fielder. A single was there for the taking but he was too busy ball watching, or perhaps wanted to keep the strike. Next ball, it’s there again and he goes even bigger, but it’s straight to the same fielder again, and Tamim Iqbal takes a screamer right on the boundary edge and they all run in to celebrate the victory. But it’s not over yet, as Jason Behrendorff comes in at number 11 needing to get a boundary off the final ball. The ball is wide and he goes for a big sweep and connects and they run, and run, and run, and for a moment it looks like they might get the 3rd run to tie the game but Mustifazur Rahman did his best to get it to Shakib and he completes the run out. There is a nervous wait as we think we might have the first ever tied World Cup final but the review comes in and he’s out! And Bangladesh win by 1 run against all of the odds!
That’s the dream, and if that ideal scenario sounds hard to believe, then it’s even tougher to get to there.
Bangladesh have made the Super 8 stage before, but that was when there were groups and one win was enough to qualify for the Super 8s. In 2015 they had a much tougher challenge to make the quarter finals, and they just got barely got there as the 4th in their group with a last ditch win over England before losing the quarter finals. For them to make the semi-finals in this scenario, with round-robins, would essentially mean that they’ve improved from the 7th-8th in 2015 to 3rd-4th in 2019, when 7th-8th was their best ever finish. While they are currently ranked 8th in the world, and were briefly as high as 6th not so long ago, that’s not top 4 either, and the top 4 look a whole lot better than Bangladesh.
Their first major barrier is in many ways the toughest – they have to beat the undefeated India or else their dreams are all but over. They have managed it before, even in World Cups, and even to upset India out of the World Cup, but this is different. This is an India who knows the dangers, an India who needs to win, or at least wants to, and this is towards the end of a big tournament in which India have been very strong.
Bangladesh have not come close to winning any game except for the brilliance of player of the tournament Shakib al Hasan so for them to be any chance in any of their remaining matches he must fire. None of the other players are on the same level as he is. Arguably against India that probably won’t be enough either, and they’ll have to have someone like Mushfiqur Rahim go with him, and perhaps Tamim Iqbal and Mustifazur Rahman and then have a whole lot of luck.
Targeting batsmen is unlikely to work as their bowlers aren’t quite at the level to be able to pull it off. While Mustifazur has flashes of brilliance, it’s not the kind of tactic he’s ever been able to pull off. Bangladesh just like to try to play better than their opponents.
The good thing for Bangladesh is that India have, so far at least, been fairly low scoring, which is what Bangladesh likes. They will have trouble against Jasprit Bumrah and indeed all of India’s bowlers will be tough to face, while their batsmen will be scary too.
The best thing for Bangladesh to do is to just try their best and see how they go. Dig in, refuse to give up and believe in themselves. They have more than enough confidence to get there. Ask them about upsets and they’ll insist that their 3 losses were the upsets, not the 3 wins, and they are expecting to beat India too. Indeed, ask them and they’ll tell you that it is guaranteed.
The problem is that this is very hard and, while they certainly can win, it’s very hard to plan to win. Hope Shakib does well then rally behind him? That is probably about as good a plan as they can get. Their 3 wins didn’t have much plan to them beyond that, so why would they try to stop it? Just the same, this is very, very difficult, a harder task than any of their wins were, and with a whole lot of pressure on them. It’s probably a 100-1 long shot.
Their chances against Pakistan are considerably higher than against India but that doesn’t mean it’s high. While Bangladesh did beat Pakistan in 1999, they haven’t beaten them a whole lot since then, and that was a dead rubber, while this match will potentially be a virtual knockout to determine who makes it to the semi-finals – if England have lost their matches, of course. Indeed, in theory, Bangladesh could qualify for the semi-finals by losing to India and beating Pakistan – but if they lose to Pakistan then they are definitely out.
The problem with Pakistan is not just that they are a good team – it’s that they are a form team, who, when they are on a roll, become unstoppable, and, assuming that they beat Afghanistan, they will be on a very, very big roll, and not only that but it is a 1992 equivalent roll, and that makes the task very hard for Bangladesh.
It’s kind of like standing in front of a steam roller and expecting to be able to push it back without being smashed into the ground. Bangladesh have confidence but they are lacking the same kind of momentum that Pakistan have, and Pakistan are a better side to begin with.
The good thing for Bangladesh is that they have Shakib al Hasan and nobody in the Pakistan side is doing nearly as well. The best for Pakistan is Mohammad Amir, but he is nowhere near Shakib’s level right now. The problem for Bangladesh is if they go head to head and Amir gets Shakib out cheaply – or even for a moderate score – then it’s pretty much all over, as Pakistan’s next best are a lot better than Bangladesh’s next best.
If Bangladesh had beaten India then this match is a little bit easier – presuming that it fills them with confidence rather than tiredness – but more likely they are going to be heading here with some serious question marks over themselves.
The good news for Pakistan is that they can self destruct and perhaps if they can lose a few wickets in a heap then Bangladesh can steamroll them, initiating a collapse or getting some big runs.
It’s possible but it’s oh so hard.
Semi-final: Probably against India
If they do get as far as a semi-final, then it’ll be a bit of a miracle but surely they can’t expect to win. However, if somehow they had beaten India then perhaps they could win again – except that India are good in knockouts, and will not be happy about the loss and will be extra prepared to win this time.
Any way you look at it, it is hard to imagine them winning the semi-final but all they can do is try.
Final: Probably against Australia
Bangladesh were easily beaten by Australia in the round robin stage by 48 runs and in the final will not expect to get anywhere near that close. That means that they’ll have to lift considerably and it just seems unlikely. Bangladesh has only beaten Australia once, in 2005, when Andrew Symonds turned up to the match drunk, and that’s how unlikely it would be for Bangladesh to come anywhere near winning the final.
But Sri Lanka wasn’t supposed to do anything in 1996 either, and they ended up winning the whole thing.
If Bangladesh do win the World Cup, they will be winning it from the lowest ranking (8th) in history, surpassing Sri Lanka’s win from 7th in 1996, and will be the biggest underdogs to win ever, as they were 9th favourites to win the tournament, ahead of only Afghanistan pre-tournament. Perhaps then we’ll be allowed to use the word “upset” and they won’t be insulted.