Cricket World Cup 2011
SA: Early qualification vital
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Graeme Smith (Gallo)
Cape Town – South Africa would be well advised not to leave qualification for the Cricket World Cup quarter-finals to their final group encounter against Bangladesh in Mirpur.
The Tigers showed enough spirit and ability in their 87-run defeat to India at Dhaka in the tournament opener – also the event’s closest result by a distance thus far! – to suggest that they could make life difficult at the very same venue when they entertain Graeme Smith’s fancied side in the last Group B encounter on March 19.
As Mike Atherton, among the international television commentators at the World Cup and one of the best judges in the game, noted after Saturday’s match, Bangladesh – revelling in their home environment -- will probably knock over at least one big gun before their fire is doused.
Before they tackle the Proteas, Shakib Al Hasan’s team will eye that possibility against vulnerable West Indies (March 4) and also the slightly faltering England, whom they play at Chittagong on March 11 – certainly they will believe they can see off Ireland the Netherlands without too much trouble these days.
So South Africa will not want to contemplate the prospect of a Mirpur “banana peel” date, with their right to a last-eight spot still up for grabs when it comes around.
There is a case for saying that Bangladesh might have come a whole lot closer or even upset the highly-touted Indians had it not been for one of those freakish knocks from a certain Virender Sehwag who, as we all know, has a well-entrenched “why go big when you can go very big?” philosophy to his batting.
His 175 off only 140 balls was a personal best at ODI level, and played a massive role in India getting themselves to an out-of-reach position of 370 for four after they had contentiously been inserted by Shakib.
Nevertheless, Bangladesh’s reply was a courageous one, their beefy 283 for nine marked by the fact that all of their top six got meaningful scores and that they had the confidence to treat the Indian pacemen, in particular, with rare contempt.
The pitch at the Shere Bangla National Stadium was a graveyard for the quicker men generally, with Sree Sreesanth taking 10-runs-an-over “tap” and earlier the Bangladeshis being forced into the introduction of spin as early as the fifth over of the day because India’s run rate was already near the double-figure mark against the upfront seamers.
Sehwag, even after his withering assault on the Bangladesh bowling, made the relevant point afterwards: “They are not good in Tests, but they can compete in ODIs.”
All World Cup teams to take on the Tigers in their own lair, with South Africa very much included, will have realised the need to be on their toes ...