If rain has been a spoiler of matches of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup 2019 in England and Wales, the most acerbic complaint against the tournament is a lack of nail-biting competition. Not a single match has produced the adrenaline rush and thrill that spectators either on galleries or in front of the TV screen experience on account of the last minute uncertainty when either side can win. With bated breath supporters of both teams wait for a win of their favourite team. It may be a matter of last one or two overs or balls when the extraordinary happens. A bowler or batsman appears on the scene with a superhuman performance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. One section of the spectators erupts in jubilation and the other plunges in despondence. Some even burst into tears.
Treacherous English weather will definitely influence to some extent the placement of teams in the semi-final where points of the first round will count. So far the outcomes have more or less followed the billing, except the England-Sri Lanka match where the overwhelming favourite was upset. Even this match failed to produce the excitement and thrill that sweep the spectators on their toes. But then there was a surprise. Who could imagine that Afghanistan-India match would come close to such an exciting finish! Lying at the bottom, the minnows, Afghans that is, gave mighty India a scare before fading out in the last two overs.
Surely, of the 10 teams, South Africa is the only team that has failed to do justice to its pre-WC form. The team that has earned the infamy of 'chokers', seems to have slid further. Earlier the South Africans lived up to expectation in round robin stages only to falter at crucial moments in semi-final or even final. Hansie Cronje's boys unceremoniously surrendered the trophy to the Australians because of the mad rush that got over Allan Donald.
Another team, once the superpower of cricket, the West Indies also has failed to click. The Caribbean with explosive batsmen like Gayle and Russel on the one hand and bowling speedsters like Thomas and Cottrell were supposed to spoil parties of the more fancied teams but the Windies have failed to produce the form they mastered against Pakistan in their inaugural match.
It is against such decline and disintegration of cricket's powerhouses, the most savouring development is the rise of Bangladesh cricket. This cricket-crazy nation has high hopes of its team's performance. Although Bangladesh defeated all the teams at least once before, still their most ardent supporter did not expect that they would consistently perform at this level in this WC. In the last two matches, the cricketers have proved they have come of age. What is most satisfying is that when the team is in for some trouble, one or two star performers stand up to the challenge. This is the hallmark of great teams. Bangladesh is now on a par with the world's best, so far as batting is concerned.
The same cannot, however, be said about the team's bowling. Had one or two fast bowlers who could bowl at a speed well over 140 kilometres an hour with swing in the air or a couple of wicket-taking spinners been there in the team, Bangladesh would be the team to beat. Two record breaking scores -- one successful chase of 321 and the highest total of 333 in ODI -- in consecutive matches is a clear demonstration of how far the team has come. Now the important thing is to sustain the momentum and do equally well or even better. The chance of making it to the semi-final is daunting but not impossible. Let the fighting spirit demonstrated so far peak and assume volcanic bursts in the remaining matches. That is how the impossible is made possible. Good luck for the Mashrafe squad!
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