It was hyped. A match full of anticipation and expectations. A match watched by thousands back home (both nations) and millions around the world. A rising associate team versus a veteran test team.
It is not a hidden fact that Nepal was in euphoria of celebrations playing their just 2nd T20 international game and Bangladesh was forced to qualify playing against the lesser known associate (Nepal) and ODI (Hong Kong and Afghanistan) teams for the main event in ICC World T20. Bangladesh wanted to prove a point to so called top 8, when they easily can topple West Indies and England in current form these nations are in, especially in Bangladesh pitches the possibilities only gets broader with likes of New Zealand coming in too. The point is Bangladesh is far superior to us. They are a ‘test team’, they own the infamous Bangladesh Premier League, they have a Lord’s centurion, no.1 all-rounder and millions of fan following back home. They are enormous. They are unpredictable yet competitive. Long gone the days when they had one Bashar (Habibul) now they have Rahims, Shakibs, Tamims, Anamuls, Mominuls, etc.
It was a match against the BIG boys Bangladesh. The second match for the both teams in the group. Both thrashed their opponents in first game they played. Nepal handed Hong Kong (a newly formed ODI nation) and Bangladesh did the honours against Afghanistan. Both teams dominated their respective first game. Both fared near about perfect. But the huge difference was, Bangladesh defeated an experienced Afghanistan team who had defeated Bangladesh back few days ago in Asia Cup whereas Nepal defeated a team they had beaten several times before. A large chunk of difference between the qualities of both the matches was evident.
Nepal is an associate team who failed to won any game in ODI world cup qualifiers earlier in this year. Bangladesh is a Test team who just don’t know how to finish the games from winning positions apart from doing everything right until then. A gap of two different worlds. Yet they clashed in same platform, thanks to few good things ICC has done for associate nations over the years. Bangladesh and Nepal locked horns in their 2nd match of the group. The winner takes it all, the loser satisfies with the 2nd/3rd position type scenario, the first thing that made it just another t20 match. Nepal had equal opportunity to qualify as much as Bangladesh (though far stretched, still a possibility). Logically, Bangladesh could have pounced on it. They easily could have done it a more grandeur way but they allowed flexibility. They respected the performance Nepal displayed against Hong Kong. They went the traditional way. They won the toss and elected to bowl first considering the dew factor later on the night. They didn’t take the risk. They simply wanted to win, no fancy stuffs, no piling up 200 runs and trying to dismiss the first time participant associate under 100 or a score from where they could have boosted their net run rate or simply made a statement to their much superior opponents, so called top 8. Bangladesh, considered the dew, considered the talent Nepal had and choose on best of scenarios they could have felt comfortable with. A comfort zone was established against an associate team.
Nepal played best they could have with the bat. Bangladesh kept changing their bowlers. They struggled to keep hold the Nepal innings. Though run rate in Nepal innings was less than below par, the Bangladeshi Captain was shouting, yelling, scolding his troops in field like any normal captain will do in any normal match. Everything was normal. The captain’s tension on his face was normal when Paras and Sharad contributed 85 runs partnership when they suddenly unleashed trio of fours in ending overs. The after reasoning to bowl, the satisfaction of the low total, the worry during that partnership, dew (like most of the matches in Bangladesh this season), everything just felt like any other T20 match Bangladesh plays or any country in that case.
Nepal bowled, Bangladesh took some calculated risks, some panache, some domination and some struggle registering 8 wickets win happened many a times before in T20s. It felt more like Nepal was 10 runs short, the dew was too heavy but not the difference in class between the two teams the major reason for the defeat. Tamim was foxed by Basant’s spin. Basant’s spin with a wet ball. A world class fielding effort by Sagar Pun, a school like error by Bangladeshi batsmen, Shakib’s attitude to prove a point after the match was done and dusted feeding off left arm spinner and his full toss. Nothing remarkable there, error by bowler. No spectacular batting by Anamul hitting his first six, missed chance by a deep fielder. Mistimed sixes, and desperation to take single or double in every ball. There was no magic in display, no poor cricket either, in fact many a times I heard commentators saying GOOD CRICKET there. Paras Khadka was upbeat after the match ruing the fact Nepal had it. Nepal had their moments, slight but they did not loosen any end. Bangladesh toiled and then dominated like any particular team will do in any match similar to this. There was tons of difference between the two teams but it all felt like just a gasp. Nepal wasn’t all out for record low score. Bangladesh didn’t notch up a record breaking win.
The final nail on the coffin was when ESPNcricinfo followed up with a fitting climax with a match report that headlined, “Bangladesh hand Nepal a thrashing”. So, Nepal is up there where World’s leading cricket website finds it subject of headline that a test team thrashed the associate team. It all felt like just another t20 match in process though it featured an Associate team and Test Team.