cricket:image:1439178 [900x1125]
cricket:image:1439178 [900x1125] (Credit: ESPNcricinfo Ltd)

MLB worried how gambling affects player safety

Once again, in the T20 World Cup 2024, Bangladesh's bowlers stepped up when their batters went missing. They defended the lowest total in men's T20 World Cup history by bowling out Nepal for 85 in Kingstown. Tanzim Hasan Sakib was the wrecker-in-chief with his astounding figures of 4-2-7-4, but it was overall a strong collective effort from the entire bowling unit.

Tanzim's whippy action, pace and hard lengths put Nepal on the back foot in the powerplay when he took four of the first five wickets. Captain Najmul Hossain Shanto took a risk in giving Tanzim a fourth consecutive over, but Bangladesh needed wickets at every stage of defending 106 runs. Tanzim struck on the very last ball of his fourth over by dismissing Sundeep Jora and vindicated Shanto's decision. He bowled the most dot balls by a bowler in a men's T20 World Cup game.

Shanto could finish Tanzim early knowing that he had five other bowlers to rely on. Mustafizur Rahman was at his miserly best once again, especially in the death overs, finishing with 3 for 7. His wicket maiden in the 19th over was the first by any bowler at that stage of a chase at a T20 World Cup game.

Adding Taskin Ahmed's one wicket, the fast bowling trio finished with figures of 8 for 43 from their 12 overs. They are, till date, the second-best fast bowling attack in the tournament in terms of wickets taken, and the third-best when it comes to economy rate.

The trio has picked up 23 wickets in four games, equaling the number of wickets they took in the 2016 and 2021 editions while playing at least seven matches. Bangladesh's bowling has followed a strict formula. Shanto has used 12 overs from the fast bowlers generally, leaving Rishad Hossain, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah to share the other eight overs. This plan has kept them alive in this tournament right from the start.

They engineered a recovery against Sri Lanka, who raced away to 100 for 3 in 14 overs, to restrict them to 124 in Dallas. They conceded runs at 4.58 against South Africa, exploiting New York's conditions properly. They supported Rishad very well against Netherlands, particularly when Netherlands put them under pressure at one stage of their 160 chase.

Shanto said that even though they were bowled out for 106 against Nepal in their last league game, they knew that they had enough to put up a fight.

"When we got together at the innings break, we collectively believed that we could defend this total," Shanto said. "We knew winning was possible. The bowlers made our job easy. Tanzim gave us a good start in the powerplay. He bowled four wonderful overs on the trot. Mustafiz bowled a maiden in the 19th over. It was a very good performance. I also want to credit the fielders. They saved some important boundaries. Rishad took two catches at point. We bowled and fielded well overall."

Shanto further said that when they saw Nepal fast bowler Sompal Kami bowling so well in the Bangladesh powerplay, they got the idea that their quick bowlers too could exploit the conditions.

"Their opening bowler (Kami) was seaming the ball, so that was an important bit of information for us," Shanto said. "Our pacers are using the new ball quite well in the last two years. They kept my belief intact in this game. There was a lot of seam movement with the new ball. We saw a lot of spin in the last couple of matches. The pitch was very hard for the batters."

Despite being 26 for 5, Nepal fought back through a 52-run sixth-wicket stand between Kushal Malla and Dipendra Singh Airee. Shanto said that such was the Bangladesh score that they had little option but to try to bowl out Nepal. That's why, he said, he finished Tanzim early, and still had a few overs of fast bowling left at the death.

"I think those two batters (Airee and Malla) batted beautifully," Shanto said. "We tried to take some more wickets. They put on some runs on the board. We still believed we could come back, and that's what the bowlers did later on.

"We didn't score a lot of runs so I had to take a chance. Otherwise we wouldn't have won this game. I expected my best bowlers to get me wickets while also bowling dot balls. Everything went to plan as the bowlers combined well. It was difficult but they are always ready to take that challenge."

He, however, conceded that the batters need to step up as Bangladesh head into the Super Eight stage, grouped with India, Australia and Afghanistan. Bangladesh's top seven batters have the lowest collective batting average (16.96) among the teams that have qualified to the Super Eight.

"It is not possible for the bowlers to win us games every day, but they have been doing it," Shanto said. "I hope that they continue in this way. But the batters have the responsibility too. It is not happening for them. Everyone is trying to find out why. It is certainly not acceptable. It was possibly a 140-150 wicket, but we couldn't get those runs. It is certainly worrying us."

It is clear that it is their bowlers who have bailed out Bangladesh in every game this tournament. Tanzim now has nine wickets, while Taskin, Mustafizur and Rishad have seven each. It is a Herculean effort if you consider that fast bowling and legspin are the most hated aspects of Bangladesh cricket in the last decade. There's a lesson somewhere for the batters to learn from these bowlers about resilience and dedication.