Bangladesh had never had a World Cup century; Mahmudullah, for all his elegance, had laboured through 113 previous ODIs without a hundred to his name. Both those omissions were rectified to leave England – an England side with no further room for manoeuvre – with an uncomfortable evening ahead under the Adelaide floodlights.
A target of 276 was logically within England’s compass on a sedate batting track, but the World Cup had reached a critical juncture. Fail to win and it would be Bangladesh, not England, who would reach the quarter-finals. England had already been well beaten in three of their four matches. The pressure of the chase was upon them.
That pressure was built by a fifth-wicket stand of 141 in 24 overs between Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim, a scampish accomplice. Bangladesh twice set new standards for partnerships in the World Cup as England’s heartening start – two wickets for James Anderson within seven balls – gradually faded. To concede only 78 runs in the last 10 overs was for England a considerable relief.
Bangladesh’s captain, Mashrafe Mortaza, had hailed the match as one of the biggest in their history. They needed only one win from their last two to beat England to a place in the last eight, but with New Zealand awaiting them in their final game, Adelaide represented their best prospect. They responded with their best score against England in ODIs – predictable perhaps in a tournament characterised by good pitches, super-hero bats and fielding restrictions.
Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur batted with great discernment, their stand finally broken by a run out, 26 balls from the end, when Chris Woakes’ direct hit from short third man beat Mahmudullah’s weary sprint to the striker’s end. Mushfiqur had designs on sneaking in for his own century until he skied a slower off-cutter from Stuart Broad to cover.
England and Bangladesh had not met in any format since the last World Cup, a memorable Chittagong night for Bangladesh as a gleeful ninth-wicket stand between Mahmudullah – him again – and Shafiul Islam carried them home with an over to spare.
How quaint England’s total of 225 that dewy night sounds four years on. The onus was on Bangladesh to set a target in the region of 300 on a decent batting track and with a 54m boundary on one side likely to do a disservice to their slow bowlers if England’s batsmen, regularly troubled by spin, could make sound enough contact that is.
“It’s a bit sticky so we hope it might swing,” said Eoin Morgan after inserting Bangladesh with grouchy overnight weather still lingering. To achieve that, England’s new-ball pair of Anderson and Broad, their standing battered during thrashings from Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, had to risk a fuller length.
They did just that. Within seven balls, Anderson had Imrul Kayes and Tamim Iqbal back in the hutch. With only two wickets in the tournament, the sight of a left-handed opening pair was just the fillip Anderson needed. Morgan posted three slips, he angled one across Kayes to have him caught at third slip and then seamed one away from Tamim for Joe Root to hold on at second. Another edge from Tamim had almost been clutched by Chris Jordan.
Kayes, a replacement for Anamul Haque, had never played in Australia before. Dismissed second ball, it is fair to assume he remains disorientated.
Desperation had encouraged England to attack. Anderson bowled to four slips for a while in a six-over spell of 2 for 20, the fielding was spritely and Morgan applauded with persistent enthusiasm like a theatrical plant. But Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah gradually restored order, building a Bangladesh third-wicket record in the World Cup – 86 in 18 overs – before Jordan deceived Sarkar with a bouncer and had him caught off the glove, trying to evade.
That nerve queller was vital for Jordan, who had been called in for his first game of the tournament, in place of Steven Finn, with Alex Hales also given a delayed opportunity ahead of Gary Ballance.
For such a dynamic cricketer, Jordan can look strikingly arrythmic at times and his prolonged inactivity meant that a cumbersome approach to the crease was completed with some wayward bowling. He performed better at the death, looking nearer to a death bowler than any England bowler in the tournament.
Wickets in consecutive overs, though, restored England’s position – the vital wicket of Shakib Al Hasan, out cheaply as he was deceived by sharp turn from Moeen Ali and edged a simple catch to Root at slip. It was rare turn for Moeen, but England’s delight that Bangladesh had declined to 99 for 4 would have been tempered by the sight of spin and recognition of the task they might face later in the day.
As the hints of swing departed, England dragged back their length. Bangladesh followed a World Cup record for the third wicket with another for the fifth. Mahmudullah feasted elegantly on anything short and wide and was not averse to the occasional foray down the pitch, despatching Jordan over the leg side with a flat pull.
His hundred – brought up by a misfield, a rare England blemish – was a historic moment in the troubled story of Bangladesh cricket. After 30 matches, they finally had a World Cup century. Whether the greater prize would follow – their first qualification for the final stages of a World Cup – remained to be seen.
Bangladesh 275/7 (50.0 ov)
England 260 (48.3 ov)
Bangladesh won by 15 runs