/ 12 April 2007

England slip past ‘banana skin’ Bangladesh

England staggered to a World Cup victory over Bangladesh on Wednesday, struggling to chase down a modest target of 144 to keep alive its hopes of a semifinal spot.

After bowling admirably to dismiss the dangerous Bangladesh side to 143, England’s top six batsmen failed to fire. Although captain Michael Vaughan top scored with 30, his team limped to 147-6 for a four-wicket triumph.

At 110 for six, another Bangladeshi shock looked on the cards after World Cup wins over India and South Africa. But the cool heads of wicketkeeper Paul Nixon and Paul Collingwood prevailed as the two saw England home to a four wicket victory with 5.1 overs to spare.

”This was a big banana skin,” said Vaughan. ”They beat India and South Africa and they made it very difficult for us today.”

Vaughan conceded that England’s batting was a major cause for concern.

”Maybe it was a nervous batting performance, but we wanted to get over the line,” he said. ”We’ve won it with not the best performance and we know we’re going to have to improve our performance against South Africa.

”It’s nice to get the two points and move onto four. Now we need to win the last two to get into the semifinals.”

England faces South Africa on Tuesday on the same, rebuilt Kensington Oval stadium used for the first time on Wednesday and must win that match and the final one against West Indies to have any chance of qualifying.

Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar said England’s batting line-up was missing the only player who treated their bowling with contempt, Marcus Trescothick, who pulled out of England’s Ashes tour last year with a stress-related illness. Ironically,

Trescothick scored 256 in 172 balls for his county side Somerset in a 50-over warm-up match at the weekend.

Bashar admitted it would be very difficult now for Bangladesh to qualify for the semifinals.

England won the toss and an effective combination of seam and spin reduced Bangladesh to only 143 in 37.2 overs.

”There are areas of the game that we are going to have to improve upon,” said Vaughan, whose team has four points, two fewer than South Africa.

In Bangladesh’s innings, Sajid Mahmood’s second delivery reared up at Tamim Iqbal and the ball flew off the shoulder of his bat to Collingwood at backward point with the score on nine, setting the tone for the innings.

Shahriar Nafees lobbed a simple chance to Vaughan at mid-on, but he dropped it. In disgust and without realising any possibilities were available, Vaughan hurled the ball back to wicketkeeper Nixon.

”It’s embarrassing,” Vaughan said after the match. ”But these things happen.”

Nafees and captain Habibul Bashar ran half-heartedly and crossed before realising that Vaughan had thrown the ball back and Nixon had the simple job to take the bails off with Bashar yards out of his crease. That left Bangladesh on 23 for two.

Nafees, possibly mortified at being dropped and then running his captain out, had only scored nine when he edged a Mahmood delivery to Nixon, who fumbled it. The ball bounced out of his gloves and into the grateful hands of Strauss at second slip.

Panesar induced false strokes from the tail before man of the match Sajid Mahmood came back on to remove the last man and collect figures of three for 27. Panesar posted three for 25.

The 20-year-old Shakib al Hasan, who scored 53 in Bangladesh’s victory over India in the qualifying stages, played elegantly, driving Flintoff for successive fours to the cover boundary and cutting viciously, never looking troubled in his 57 not out.

Chasing a modest total, England’s top order once again batted ineptly.

Ian Bell played a loose drive outside the off stump and was caught by Aftab Ahmed at point without scoring. Andrew Strauss batted aggressively, taking the score to 48 with Vaughan before Syed Russel trapped him leg before wicket.

In the middle of a poor run of form, Vaughan managed 30 before he tried to take on Bangladesh’s deceptively innocuous-looking spin attack, top edging Abdur Razzak to Bashar at fine leg.

Kevin Pietersen fell for only 10 with a casual flick to substitute fielder Farhad Reza and England was faltering at 79 for four. Andrew Flintoff smashed a six and two fours before unwisely going onto the back foot to spinner Mohammad Rafique and missing the ball completely.

He had scored 23 and Ravi Bopara fell in the same over without scoring, his tentative back-foot shot rebounding off his leg and onto the stumps.

At 110 for six, England was in trouble but Collingwood, with 23 not out and Nixon, with 20, saw England to victory with a 37-run partnership. – Sapa-AP