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May 17, 1999

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Kiwis disappoint desite win against Bangladesh

Prem Panicker

The game at Chelmsford, between ICC trophy winners Bangladesh and a New Zealand side rated the dark horse outsiders for the World Cup, was interesting not for the actual on-field happenings, but for the off the ball pointers you could pick up about the two teams.

For the record, Bangladesh -- batting with a thoughtlessness that should draw some harsh comment from coach Gordon Greenidge -- did their cause no good when they lost openers Shahryar Hosain and Mehrab Hossain within the third over, both LBW to left arm medium pacer Allott in indentical fashion. Both stuck out their pad to deliveries slanted across them and cutting back in from off to middle. Allott, in fact, looked the most impressive of the Kiwi bowlers, reinforcing his natural slant away from right-handers with deliveries that broke back off the seam to hustle all the batsmen on view.

Skipper Aminul Islam and former skipper Akram Khan however did not even have the excuse of good bowling for their dismissals. Both batsmen, after getting well set, got out to atrocious strokes and from that point on, wickets tumbled at regular intervals, only Enamul Hoque and Hasibul Hossain putting up such resistance.

That Bangladesh only got 116 was bad enough -- that their innings ended fully 12.2 overs short of the allotted quota was inexcusable. More so given that there was nothing in the Kiwi bowling to trigger such a slide. Allott was incisive, Larsen held line and length and moved the ball around quite a bit both ways off the seam, but the rest of the bowling -- including Chris Harris, rated one of the hardest customers to get away in the modern game -- looked ordinary on the day.

It's early days yet, the Kiwi bowlers have time to get accustomed to conditions (though why they need acclimatisation considering that conditions are pretty much the same back home beats me), but it was still a disappointing performance by what is being rated a team of all-rounders capable of strangling strong batting sides with their dibbly-dobbly bowlers.

As for Bangladesh, their premature dismissal merely underlined the gulf between the two stages of the game -- the ICC Trophy, and the higher stage. On the credit side, they all look good when playing their shots, displaying the sub-continental flair that marks their higher rated brethren of Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. Learning the strategies, finding the nerve to last the distance -- these would appear to be the areas coach Gordon Greenidge will need to work on now.

The real revelation came when the Kiwis batted. Opening bowlers Hasibul Hussain and Manjual Islam produced a lovely 16 over combined spell that bottled up the opposing batsmen, and made run-scoring look very very difficult. In fact, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the Bangladesh new bowlers used the chill winds and track conditions much better than the Kiwi frontline team of Allott, Nash and Cairns.

Both bowlers seem adept at holding that teasing line around off, and seaming the ball away late enough to cause worries. Islam adds a very well disguised slower ball to his repertoire, and one got the feeling that if they had one more seamer of the same class in their ranks, they could have upset a higher-fancied applecart here. As it is, they took out Astle and McMillan in short order and forced the other Kiwis to fight for their runs -- Horne's laboured 34 off 80 being indicative of how tight the bowling was.

However, once the opening bowlers were taken off, the Kiwis, despite the odd stutter caused by the dismissals of McMillan and skipper Stephen Fleming, coasted home with overs to spare.

But at least in the field, Bangladesh did their coach proud. Skipper Aminul Islam, showing a penchant for attack that other sides would do well to learn from, supported his opening bowlers with two slips and, at times, a gully, obviously reasoning that you couldn't defend 116 anyway, so he might as well get some wickets while the getting was good. And he kept one slip in place throughout the innings, adding to the pressure by dispensing with sweepers and keeping his fielders inside the circle to cut off the singles.

The fielders too distinguished themselves, diving around with elan and, on occasion, producing sliding saves on the line as good as any you'll find in the game today.

For the fancied Kiwis, the post-match post-mortem could prove a tense affair. Astle didn't stay out there long enough for us to judge, but Horne, Fleming, Twose and McMillan all looked way short of the touch and form you need to be in for a competition of this kind. Twose middled pretty much everything, but unerringly found the fielders, while the other three edged more than they middled.

This, coupled with what on the day was an ordinary bowling display, indicates that the dark horses have some galloping to do if they want to get into the next phase.

Martin Crowe, on television, argued a case for why the Kiwis despite today's performance remain a very dangerous side. On paper, he seems to be right -- out there in the field, though, Fleming's Black Caps have some hard work coming up before they can live up to that billing.


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