Two games and two outstanding performances into their World Cup campaign England are developing the swagger not of a side that copes well with pressure, but one that never has any to cope with. After inducing West Indies to self-combust in their opening fixture, on Wednesday they eased to a less chaotic but scarcely less emphatic victory over Bangladesh, winning by eight wickets to take control of Group One of the Super 12s.
Another impressive display in the field was followed on this occasion by the missing ingredient from their opener: a demonstration of calm authority with the bat. Jason Roy led the way and celebrated his 50th Twenty20 international appearance by hitting his seventh half-century to propel England towards their target.
“It’s an area of my game I’ve been working extra hard on, on slow pitches against left-arm spinners,” Roy said. “It was a big opportunity to go out there and put the practice into play. As a batsman and as a cricketer you always have some darker thoughts going through your mind before a game, but I just had to remind myself to do what I do in training and things will be all right. Today was a big test for me – I had to really use all the skills I’ve learned, and it seemed to work.”
The powerplay is expected to be important in this tournament, as it was in the United Arab Emirate leg of this year’s Indian Premier League, and the first six overs of each innings certainly demonstrated the gulf between these sides. Bangladesh had been reduced to 27 for three at the conclusion of theirs; England reached 28 for none by the halfway stage of their own, 50 for one at its conclusion, and by then the die was cast. Having restricted their opponents to 124 for nine in their 20 overs, England motored to their victory target with 35 balls and eight wickets to spare.
Roy was well caught in the deep soon after hitting the shot of the day, swatting a short ball over his left shoulder for six. This left Dawid Malan, dumped down the order in the search for speedy runs against West Indies but in as advertised at No 3 on this occasion, to finish things off in the company of Jonny Bairstow.
England’s batters simply provided the cherry on another sumptuous fielding cake, while in the baking heat of the Abu Dhabi afternoon Bangladesh lost their cool. The main surprise about this was that it was the part-time spin of Liam Livingstone that pushed them over the edge.
In his first over Livingstone pinned Mushfiqur Rahim, who had appeared be settling nicely into an anchor role, lbw, and in his second chaos truly broke out. Mohammad Mahmudullah dabbed the ball down the leg-side, where a misfield by Tymal Mills tempted the batters to attempt an opportunistic second run. It could be that Mills, known to his teammates as Big T and for good reason, blocked Mahmudullah’s view of the ball as he turned and assessed his options, but it had rolled not far beyond the fielder and both batters were halfway down the track before the imminent disaster dawned. As the Bangladesh captain stopped to turn back Afif Hossain spun, saw the ball already on its way to Jos Buttler’s gloves, and did not even try to make his ground.
These things happen, 当然. But then something similar happened off the next ball – replays saved Nurul Hasan, his bat over the line by a crucial couple of inches – and again off the next, when Nurul dabbed the ball to point, started to run, stopped, started again, and was relieved to watch, from a considerable distance, Adil Rashid’s throw miss the stumps at the bowler’s end.
One of the pleasing things about T20 cricket, a vital factor in the format’s ascent to current levels of popularity, is that by its nature it induces a sense of panic and chaos. But some teams do seem more inclined to it than others and after losing their first two games of the Super 12s Bangladesh, once touted as potential dark horses, are now a wobble away from elimination.
Their innings had started well, with Liton Das hitting successive boundaries from the final two balls of the opening over, again bowled by Moeen Ali. But with neither opener having a convincing record against off-spin England persisted with Moeen, and in his second over they demonstrated why and both got out.
For a while Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah brought some calm to the Bangladesh innings, albeit without significantly disturbing the calm of the scorers. Then Livingstone intervened, and with Chris Woakes – whose four overs cost only 12 runs – outstanding England took grip of the game and never relaxed their hold.
The closest England came to panic was when they were ushered out of their dressing room minutes after the conclusion of the match so Scotland and Namibia, the second act in a double-header, could move in. It remains to be seen whether there is a team in this group that can ruffle them more than the ICC’s stewards – Australia, 周六, will be next to try.