Cricket World Cup: Bangladesh enjoy their greatest day

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The Independent Online
Bangladesh 223-9 Pakistan 161 Bangladesh win by 62 runs

THEY WERE dancing in the streets of Dhaka last night -and Wantage Road, Northampton, was pretty lively, too - as Bangladesh's irrepressibly ebullient followers celebrated what could reasonably be called the greatest day in the country's history since gaining independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Previous victories over Kenya, to win the ICC Trophy, and Scotland last week were left in the shade by this achievement, given the nature and stature of the opposition.

All this came on the day it was confirmed that their West Indian coach, Gordon Greenidge, had been sacked. He was at Northampton to watch yesterday's dramas, but apparently played no part in selecting the team. Greenidge said last night that he had upset the board by saying that Bangladesh were not yet ready for Test match status. "I was leaving anyway, but the way it has been done is in very bad taste. It would be nice if they could have been man enough to speak to me," he said.

Suspicious minds might question the commitment of a Pakistan side already assured of winning Group B. If they were not bothered about the result, however, nobody had told leg-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, whose 5 for 35 after Bangladesh had been asked to bat in the competition's standard overcast conditions deserved better support.

A bad day for Pakistan had begun with a statement from the camp deploring reports in British Sunday newspapers on alleged match-fixing and ball- tampering. The team's media manager criticised "blatant attempts to undermine the sterling performances of the Pakistan team and to unnerve them, so as to hamper their progress to the final".

Yesterday's effort, far from sterling, was not even a rupee performance - ropey perhaps - and unnerved was exactly what they looked in setting out to reach their modest target, losing two wickets in the first two overs. From the fifth ball of the innings, Khaled Mahmud's strictly medium pace accounted for Shahid Afridi, caught at point off a leading edge, and Ijaz Ahmed was then bowled swiping at the pacier Shafiuddin Ahmed, who was playing his first match of the tournament.

Inevitably in the circumstances there had to be a run-out involving Inzamam- ul-Haq, whose latest victim was Saeed Anwar, setting off after playing wide of cover and being sent back by his statuesque partner. Two good lbw decisions in favour of Mahmud meant that half the side were out for 42 and a brilliant run-out by the captain, Aminul Islam, to dismiss Azhar Mahmood ended the partnership of 57 with Wasim Akram, who soon followed.

At the end, appeals to spectators to stay off the playing area until the players had exited might as well have been made by King Canute. They did not even wait for the third umpire's decision on the final run-out, of Saqlain, though fortunately a red light was eventually shown. Had it been green, the match might never have finished.

Earlier, the sight of Shoaib Akhtar and Waqar Younis roaring in at the young Bangladeshi openers on a pitch offering early lift and bounce brought to mind the words "lambs" and "slaughter". But the lambs first grunted in defiance, then roared. Although Shoaib conceded only 11 in his first spell of five overs, Waqar - in his first appearance of the tournament - was more wayward, and Shahriar Hossain grew visibly in confidence after smacking him for successive boundaries. He gave Azhar Mahmoud the same treatment, prompting his withdrawal after only two overs and it took the introduction of Saqlain to achieve with guile what sheer pace had not managed. Surrey's man took time to find his line, bowling four wides in his opening over, yet ending an opening stand of 69 with the fourth of them, when the teenaged Mehrab Hossain lunged forward and was stumped.

Shahriar followed in Saqlain's next over, leg-before attempting to sweep, but with Wasim off line and Azhar expensive, 120 were on the board and six bowlers had been called upon before a third wicket fell.

The rest of the innings was generally well judged, especially Akram Khan's top score of 42, and, helped along by Pakistan's usual generous contribution of extras easily passed Bangladesh's previous World Cup best of 185. More history was about to be made.

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