Simon Haydon, AP
Georgetown, Guyana: Bangladesh cricketers are learning to tone down their celebrations when they beat the powerhouse teams.
That’s because it is becoming a habit.
Saturday’s World Cup victory over South Africa came three weeks after a triumph over India which played a major part in knocking its neighbour out of the competition.
“It wasn’t like beating India. Winning’s becoming more familiar now,” said captain Habibul Bashar after the 67-run upset victory over a South African team ranked by the ICC as world number one.
Bangladesh has now won three out of its six matches at the 2007 World Cup, beating India, Bermuda and now South Africa. Saturday’s win was the first in the Super 8s after heavy losses to New Zealand and Australia and that means it has two points, the same as host West Indies and England.
The country has only had ICC test status since 2001. But under coach Dav Whatmore, an ex-Australian test player and former coach of Sri Lanka, the team has taken enormous strides in its professionalism. It beat Pakistan at the 1999 World Cup, captured a five-wicket victory over Australia two years ago and also has beaten Sri Lanka.
“It’s all about being consistent. We still need to be more consistent but the boys have belief in themselves now,” the captain said.
Bashar knows cricket fans are fickle so he is not getting too excited. Reports that effigies of him were burned back home in Dhaka after the first Super 8s defeats surprised him. But he is convinced the country will be backing the team now.
Bangladesh now travels to Barbados, where the team faces England on Wednesday.
Whatmore has developed a squad that has blended experience — Bashar is age 34 and Mohammad Rafique 36 — with youth. Wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim and spinner Shakib al Hasan are only 18, but they benefit from playing with the senior players.
On Saturday, the main batting duties fell to Mohammad Ashraful, who is just 22 but has already played 96 one day internationals, more than many senior players with the bigger nations.
Ashraful’s innings was cautious at first. He came in with his team stuttering at 69 for 3 and let others play the more aggressive shots.
The docile Georgetown wicket — The Providence track is shaping up to be as tame as the former Bourda test wicket — became flatter and Ashraful picked up the pace. He treated the deliveries and verbal bullying of South African paceman Andrew Nel with contempt, paddle sweeping him to the deep fine leg boundary five times.
Attempting the shot again in the 49th over, he was caught inside the boundary. But by then the damage had been done and Bangladesh had reached 251 for eight.
“When the score reached 250 we knew we had a chance of winning the game and then we got an early breakthrough,” Bashar said.
South Africa’s batsmen had no answer to the spin based bowling attack, which frustrated batsmen into frequent mistakes.
“They grasped the opportunity that came their way with both hands,” said a dejected South Africa skipper Graeme Smith.