Canada brought back the memories of World Cup 2003 to most part of the game in a very well fought encounter at Antigua Recreation Ground in the third and final ODI of ICC tri-series. Chasing a victory target of 279 in 50 overs, Canada went as far as 265/7 in stipulated 50 overs. They fell short of 13 runs at the end in a match which could have been won by any team. Bangladesh made an exceptional comeback to deny Canada a very well deserved win. At the end, the experienced Bangladesh side saved the blushes by some intelligent bowling from their slow left arm bowlers.
Canada defied all odds during the run chase and an impressive 177 run 2nd wicket partnership between GEF Barnett and IS Billcliff put them in a very commanding position. This pair had no problem whatsoever in milking the runs. Sakib Al Hasan produced the most vital breakthrough of the match by removing GEF Barnett. His departure sparked a mini collapse and Canada lost the momentum as both IS Bilcliff and Captain JM Davison departed in quick succession. Despite the wicket fall Canada maintained the run chase and it was anybody's game. Ashif Mulla quick fired 44 of 36 deliveries to set up an exciting finish. Finally, Bangladesh being more experienced of the two side kept their head cool and won the match in a tense finish by 13 runs. Canada faltered at the end and despite having wickets in hand failed to reap from its earlier build up to record an upset victory.
Earlier, Canada won the toss and Bangladeh to bat. The decision paid immediate dividend when veteran Andy Cummins plucked two quick wickets to reduce Bangladesh to an embarrassing 4/2. Both Aftab and Shahriar Nafees edged the very first delivery they faced. They were reduced to 30/3 after Tamim Iqbal got run out. Captain Habibul Bashar paired up with in form batsman Sakib Al Hasan and took the score to 162 in 37 overs. Bashar fell after a well composed 57. Mohammad Ashraful joined Sakib Al Hasan and this pair scored run freely to post 278/5 in 50 overs. On the way, Sakib earned his maiden ODI ton, Ashraful reached a quick fire half century from just 38 balls. He got out for 60 runs in the last ball of the match. Sakib remained not out for a very well played 134*. In this process, he superseded Shahriar Nafees's 123 to post the highest individual ODI score for Bangladesh.
It was a great recovery from a tattering start. Sakib showed why he is considered as one of the brightest prospect of Bangladesh cricket. Captain Habibul Bashar again showed the value of experience in putting up a valuable 4th wicket partnership with sakib. Finally Ashraful scored some good runs which helped Bangladesh to post a very commanding total which at the end proved just sufficient to edge past Canada.
Todays match was a great display of one day cricket and both teams had their time in the middle. From a Canadian point of view it set an ideal platform for some good performances in the upcoming world cup and it send some clear message to other members of group C in which Canada is placed with England, New Zealand and Kenya. From Bangladesh's perspective it was a great display of character to upturn the fate of the game despite trailing in most part of the proceedings.
Bangladesh has lot to gain from todays win. Someone might dubb the hard fought win as the below par performance against a minnow nation but in a real sense it game Bangladesh an ideal practice for the world cup where they are targeting second round berth. Canada in recent past enjoyed some good moments in batting and scored consistently over 250 in their last few ODI's. They had a memorable run chase of 309 against Ireland in recently concluded World Cricket League in which they succeeded loosing only 4 wickets. This clearly indicates their strength and depth of batting. They again proved their might today. On the other hand, Bangladesh in both batting and bowling came back strongly from the brink of failure. This was a really impressive show from a regularly improving side.
Bangladesh took the ICC tri series as part of the world cup preparation and I have to admit that it could not have gone any better. After showing the batting and bowling might against the hapless Bermuda, Bangladesh showed the maturity of an international side in todays win. They were taken to the wire by the Canadians but at the Bangladesh had the last laugh due to some superior understanding of the situation. Another positive out of todays win is the exposure of the weak points of Bangladesh which they have the opportunity to rectify in the two warm up matches before the gala event. At the end, I must congratulate Bangladesh team for their fighting spirit which kept the head of the fans high ahead of crucial world cup ties.