Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hughes dropped to make way for Watson

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Australia's selectors have pulled a major selection surprise by axing Phillip Hughes from the starting XI for the Edgbaston Test. The move, as revealed in The Australian newspaper, will see Hughes make way for Shane Watson after a string of modest totals prompted by a susceptibility to short-pitched bowling.

Hughes managed 36, 4 and 17 at Sophia Gardens and Lord's, and posted scratchy innings of 10 and 68 in the most recent tour match against Northamptonshire. He had been expected to retain his place in the Australian starting XI on the back of his sublime debut series in South Africa, during which he posted centuries in both innings of the Durban Test, but fundamental flaws in his technique have prompted the selectors to act.

Whether Watson will replace Hughes as opener, or take his place in a reshuffled batting order, is uncertain. The all-rounder impressed with quickfire innings of 84 and 50 against Northants, but possesses only a modest Test average (19.76) and has never batted higher than No. 6 in the five-day game.

Watson has experienced moderate success batting higher in the order for Queensland, but has fared better opening the batting for the Australian one-day side. He has posted ODI centuries at the top of the order for Australia in the past year, having worked with Greg Chappell, the Australian centre of excellence coach, to tighten his technique.

Still, the move to replace Hughes with Watson comes as a shock on the eve of the third Test. Hughes, 20, arrived in England amid much fanfare following his prolific tour of South Africa (415 runs at 69.16) and a similarly successful stint with Middlesex (574 runs at 143.50). Hughes achieved the latter feat in just five innings, including three centuries, bettering Don Bradman's impressive start to his maiden first-class stint in England - 566 runs in five innings in 1930.

Any move to install Watson as Australia's new opener would also come as a surprise, given the quality of top-order candidates around the country. Chris Rogers, who played a solitary Test against India two years ago, has scored 408 runs at 45.33 for Derbyshire in 2009, following on from his successful debut season with Victoria. And Phil Jaques, who has reportedly recovered from a second round of back surgery, scored a century in his last Test innings and averages a robust 47.47 in 11 Test innings.

Evidence of the selectors' stunning move was on display at Australia's final pre-match training session at Edgbaston's indoor nets centre on Wednesday. Watson batted with tremendous intent during an extended net session with Tim Nielsen, the Australian coach. Several pundits had speculated the all-rounder could slot in for Marcus North at No. 6, but he will now be posted higher up the order as Australia seek to level the Ashes series.

"In the end, all I can do is perform and see what the selectors are going to do with the team," Watson said during the tour match at Northampton. "I'm not targeting one specific spot. I've just got to go out there and perform when I get the opportunity and see what happens.

"I feel like I've got the game and the technique and the mental side of things in the order to be able to give myself the best chance to combat [England's fast bowlers]. They're some of the best bowlers in the world and it's one of the biggest challenges you could really face in world cricket facing those guys with a brand-new ball on a fresh pitch. But I feel like I've got the game to handle that and it would be an awesome to challenge to have that opportunity."

England will undoubtedly view the move as vindication for their tight, short-pitched tactics to Hughes. South Africa also attempted to bounce the diminutive opener earlier this year, but offered him too much width and paid a heavy price.

Speaking to FoxSports prior to his axing, Hughes said he was enjoying the challenge of batting against Andrew Flintoff, who had dismissed him in two of his three innings on tour. "I see it as a challenge and it definitely has been, he's bowling beautifully, I suppose their whole unit has been coming out pretty well and you've got to really adapt to that," he said.

"I'm not going to change things right now, halfway through a series and I won't. There's things that I will be adapting to, a couple of things I want to change. I'm a little bit disappointed about not playing well in the first Tests but I can turn things around."

It is understood Australia will retain the same bowling attack from the opening two Tests of the series, albeit with Mitchell Johnson bowling at first-change, and Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus taking the new ball. The move will come as a desperate disappointment to Stuart Clark, who has performed strongly in all three tour matches and was hoping to force his way into the Australian XI for Edgbaston.

Australia have lost aura - Strauss

has provided a telling insight into the growing confidence within the England team by insisting Ricky Ponting's squad has lost its aura of invincibility. Ten days after England ended Australia's 75-year unbeaten streak at Lord's, Strauss leapt onto the offensive on the eve of the Edgbaston Test, suggesting Ponting's youthful band do not possess the intimidatory powers of their predecessors.

"I don't think this Australian side has got an aura about it to be honest with you and prior to this Test series starting we didn't feel they had an aura about them," Strauss said. "That's not disrespectful to the players they've got because they've got a lot of very good players but I think the aura came with the likes of Warne and McGrath and Hayden and Gilchrist, all those sort of guys.

"This [Australian] team over time might develop an aura, but right at the moment you've got a lot of guys who are at the start of their Test careers. It doesn't mean you are any more likely to beat them or anything like that but it feels like you are playing against any other Test team."

Strauss' comments are someway short of revelatory - Graeme Smith and Anil Kumble have previously commented on Australia's decline following the retirements of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist, to name but a few - and even his opposite number, Ricky Ponting, conceded that there was a grain of truth in his sentiments.

"Any feeling of aura that you get against opposition sides is something that is built up over a period of time," said Ponting. "There are some reasonably fresh faces around our group who are just starting to find their feet at international level, so it's inevitable that the aura of our side is going to change. But it's okay for him to say that now, I'm not sure he was saying that after Cardiff - we had it well and truly over most of their batsmen down there."

Since last year's tour of India, Ponting's side has won five, lost six and drawn three Test matches, and is fighting to repel South Africa's bid for their No. 1 ranking. Australia's crown has already slipped in the shorter forms of the game - the South Africans are rated the world's top-ranked 50-over side, while Australia suffered an embarrassing first-round exit at the World Twenty20 - and Strauss insisted the rest of the world was fast reeling them in on the Test front.

"An aura is when the opposition teams, even though they are on top, are not confident they are going to beat you," he said. "They always expect something dramatic to happen that will bring your team back in the game and put them under pressure again.

"We certainly felt that in 2006-07. Even when we had good days, we were thinking what is going to happen now. Is Gilchrist going to blast a hundred or Warne take five wickets from nowhere? It only comes with a large consistent level of performance for a long period of time. Australia had that, personally I don't feel that's where they are right at the moment."

Strauss conceded England would not establish its own aura without a sustained period of success; a point that was met with agreement by Ponting at his ensuing press conference. "You create aura with a group of guys on top of their game, all heading in the same direction, and with stand-out performances," he said. "It's generated over a period of time with some excellent play, and England's current Test rating would probably indicate that they don't have one."

Key to England's hopes of achieving success in this series is Andrew Flintoff, a man who possessed an aura all of his own at Lord's, and despite not training on Wednesday, Strauss was confident his allrounder would be fit for the third Test.

In the lead-up to Lord's, where he took five second-innings wickets, Flintoff had scans on the injury and it has required regular pain killing to provide him with the chance of repeating his 2005 Ashes triumph. "He bowled two good spells [on Tuesday], one in the middle, one in the nets, and he seemed to come through those okay," Strauss said. "It's always the case, you've got to see how he responds to bowling more than actually what happens when he's bowling. But we are optimistic at this stage."

Given the overcast conditions, the only reasons England will have to change their second Test line-up are if Flintoff is injured or they are desperate to bring in Steve Harmison. "The guys who played at Lord's all performed pretty well so we'd have to be sure the conditions were going to help someone else if we were going to make that change," Strauss said. By confirming that Monty Panesar has been released from the squad, the likelihood of an unchanged attack has increased.

The England dressing room is a quieter place since Pietersen's foot surgery and Ian Bell has tip-toed back into the XI after being dropped during the West Indies tour. Strauss said the entry of Bell, who will bat in Pietersen's spot at No. 4, was reassuring.

"He's a proven Test performer, he's played in the Ashes before and he's done that spell out of the side that a lot of us have been through," he said. "It's not much fun when you are out of it but it makes you very, very hungry when you come back in. And also, you've got a kind of mindset that you've got nothing to lose. You've been out of the side, this is another opportunity for you. I expect him to grasp that with two hands and play some really good innings in the coming matches."

For Ponting, however, the absence of Pietersen provided an undoubted boost to his hopes of making in-roads into their batting. "They've lost some skill out of their middle-order," he said. "I think [Pietersen] is one of the better and more dominant players in world cricket, and I firmly believe England look to him to give them something with the bat, so we'll see over the next five days whether anything has changed.

"Bell is a good player, as we've seen through his career, but he hasn't played as well as he would like against Australia, so it's a great opportunity for us. If we can get the openers out early and get the middle-order out there against a relatively new and shiny hard ball, we can do some damage."

Strauss said it would be "massive" if England could enter the fourth Test in Leeds next week with a 2-0 advantage. "One thing we are very conscious of is not resting on our laurels now we are 1-0 up," he said. "We've got a fantastic opportunity this week to build on that. Complacency is the furthest thing from our minds at the moment. We are expecting a much harder Test match this week and we're ready for it."

Beefed-up Pakistan look for revenge

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The Tests delivered the promise of riveting cricket, at a time when the game's traditional format was under threat. Now save your appetite for the one-dayers. The selling point of the series comes from the visitor's camp. It marks the return of two exciting players from the ICL, who have been in heavy demand from loyal Pakistan followers to give the team a facelift - Imran Nazir and Naved-ul-Hasan. The other player from the ICL, Abdul Razzaq, had already started his rebirth as an international player in the World Twenty20 but was kept out of the Tests and Mohammad Yousuf too made a stirring comeback in the Tests.

Both teams are at a rebuilding stage, with the 2011 World Cup in mind. The Sri Lankan captain, Kumar Sangakkara, highlighted that on the eve of the opening ODI in Dambulla, as it gives a chance for his team to experiment before arriving at the right combination. Instead of trying out new blood, both teams have handed comebacks to old faces, Thilan Samaraweera being a prime example from the home team. Tillakaratne Dilshan's temporary absence may come as a blessing in disguise for them as it's an opportunity for another attacking opener to fill the breach. After all, Sri Lanka cannot depend on Sanath Jayasuriya forever.

They will be up against the team which thumped them fairly convincingly the last time they met in the limited-overs format - the ICC World Twenty20. Where will the pendulum swing this time?

Form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)

Sri Lanka - WLLLL
Pakistan - WLLLW

Watch out for…

Upul Tharanga: With Dilshan bandaged and ruled out for the first couple of ODIs at least, Tharanga's spot at the top is more or less guaranteed. Holding his place once Dilshan returns will be his challenge. He last played an ODI during the tour of Bangladesh earlier this year but was overlooked for the series against Pakistan and India. His performance in the warm-up game in Kurunegala on Monday was inauspicious - he was out for a first-ball duck. Tharanga is a tried and tested player who's had success in the past and if he backs himself, he should manage some substantial scores, focus on building an innings and leave the power hitting to Jayasuriya.

Imran Nazir: He was the people's favourite not too long ago and still is. Trawl through the comments from readers in Cricinfo's recent stories and blogs on Pakistan and Nazir features almost everywhere. He was the most-wanted player from the ICL and for a good reason too. He smacked an unbeaten 111 off 44 balls to guide Lahore Badshahs to the ICL title last November and fans realised just how much they missed him. Pakistan can look forward to the exciting opening duo of Nazir and Kamran Akmal.

Sri Lanka's new one-day kit: Hopefully the dawn of a new era, after three consecutive series defeats at home.

Team news

Dilhara Fernando was added at the last minute as cover for the injury-prone Lasith Malinga. Sangakkara didn't reveal the exact combination and said that Samaraweera and Thilina Kandamby were in the mix.

Sri Lanka: (likely) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Sanath Jayasuriya, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt and wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilina Kandamdy/Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Thilan Thushara, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga/Dilhara Fernando, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan

Pakistan have an embarrassment of riches and the competition for places has shot up. Will Yousuf walk in, and if he does, at whose expense? There was no word on a possible debut for Umar Akmal, who smashed an unbeaten 103 off 76 balls in Kurunegala.

Pakistan: (likely) 1 Kamran Akmal (wk), 2 Imran Nazir, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Fawad Alam, 5 Shahid Afridi, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Misbah-ul-Haq/ Mohammad Yousuf, 8 Abdul Razzaq, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Naved-ul-Hasan, 11 Saeed Ajmal/ Mohammad Aamer

Pitch and conditions

Sri Lanka's main batsmen have found it tough going in Dambulla and here's what Sangakkara had to say about the pitch: "Over the years it's been a tough wicket to read. It's had various scores on it from low to high, the highest being 285. The key is not having a negative mindset going out there. It's best to go out there with an open mind, assess the conditions very quickly and communicate it to the dressing room. Those few little basics that we talk about in building partnerships are going to be the key."

Stats and trivia

  • Pakistan is the only team with a positive win-loss record against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka: in 21 ODIs they have won ten and lost nine. Since 2000, though, they have lost five and won three against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka.
  • Teams batting first have won only five out of 13 day games in Dambula. The last four day matches here have all been won by the team batting second.
  • Sri Lanka's main batsmen have had a tough time in Dambulla. Sangakkara averages less than 29 in 20 innings, while Jayasuriya has only two 50-plus scores in 18 innings.
  • Both Sangakkara and Jayawardene haven't managed a half-century at home against Pakistan in 15 ODI innings. Sangakkara's highest in eight innings is an unbeaten 36, while Jayawardene's best in seven innings is 49.
  • Muralitharan has enjoyed the conditions in Dambulla, taking 33 wickets in 15 matches at an average of 15.36 at an economy rate of 3.46 runs per over.


"You are never sure as to whether they will be explosive or be destructive. Sometimes they are a hard side to play, all the more so we should be thinking about our game a lot more that we should about theirs."
Kumar Sangakkara on Pakistan "We are aware of Sri Lanka's strength we must stick to our basics every day and in every game. Sri Lanka's fielding is fantastic and they have the upper hand in fielding. If we field like we did in the Twenty20 we can provide good competition."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bell determined to take chance

Ian Bell insists he is looking forward to the challenge of deputising for Kevin Pietersen at number four at Edgbaston, while Andrew Flintoff is using NASA technology to aid his knee injury.

Bell ready to seize the moment

Some men fill a room with their aura as soon as they step into it, others seem to shrink when all eyes turn towards them. Kevin Pietersen, who has been ruled out of the rest of the Ashes after undergoing an operation on his Achilles tendon, falls emphatically into the former category. The challenge for Ian Bell, the man who will replace him at No. 4 in Thursday's third Test at Edgbaston, is to prove he does not belong exclusively in the latter.

It's hard to envisage two more contrasting characters in the entire England set-up, and you'd certainly never have imagined either man being earmarked as a like-for-like replacement for the other. But that's how it's set to pan out this summer, with Bell earning his Test recall through Pietersen's misfortune, but deserving it as well on the back of a 60-plus average for Warwickshire in the County Championship.

"I do have a lot to offer to England," said Bell, who has missed each of his country's last eight Test matches since February, the longest period he has spent out of the side since making his debut in 2004. "When you've played and become a regular, and that gets taken away from you, I think that tells you how much it means to you, and how much you miss it. You do a lot of thinking inside about what you want to do when you get that next opportunity. This is an opportunity I probably didn't think I was going to get this summer, and hopefully I'll take it with both hands.

"Of course, with someone like Kev, he's a world-class player and you're going to miss that," he said, "but we know as a batting unit what we have to do to win this Test match. We all have our own sort of tempo, Kev has his methods, I have my methods and strengths, and I have to play to them. I can't go out and play like Kev, I've just got to go out there and think about how I want to score my runs, and make sure we get a good first-innings score."

Aside from the identity of the man he has to replace, the circumstances couldn't really be better for Bell. England have a lead in the series thanks to their historic win at Lord's; Australia's bowlers are low on confidence after a shocking and decisive display in the first innings of that match, and the third Test is taking place at Bell's home ground of Edgbaston, a venue where bat has dominated ball for two seasons solid. In the post-Warne and McGrath era, he has a glorious opportunity to improve upon a ten-match Test record of 502 runs at 25.10 against Australia, which is more than 15 runs below his overall Test average.

"I know that my record against Australia is the weakest out of all the countries I have played, and that's up to me now to turn around," he said. "It's a new-look Australia to the one I've played in the past, and it's up to me now to go out and perform, and contribute to the team by playing well in this Test match. It doesn't worry me what other people think, I just have to get myself ready [because] I know how I can play at my best." It would be quite some development for Bell to emerge as the hero of England's Ashes summer. Four years ago in his first full season of international cricket, he batted once again in that No. 4 position, and struggled to seven single-figure scores in ten Ashes innings. Eighteen months later, his returns improved to the tune of four half-centuries in five Tests, but his image did not, as Shane Warne handed him the geeky nickname of "Shermanator", a taunt that resurfaced in his newspaper column this week.

"Warne's a legend, what more can you say about the guy?" said Bell in response. "I think he's tried to pick on the whole of the England team, and this week it's been my week to cop a bit. I don't have to play against Shane Warne this week, so he can say what he wants, but if I want to get rid of that name tag I have to play well against Australia, and that's fact. I've played well against other teams in the world, and now I have to do it against the 11 guys out there."

Even though the reputation of the bowling attack is several notches lower than Bell has previously experienced in Ashes competition, he's not a character who's likely to get complacent in a hurry. "Warne and McGrath are legends of the game, but this is a good Australia side as they showed at Cardiff," he said. "You can't just walk into a Test match against Australia and do what you want. You have to get stuck in and work hard for everything, and I fully expect that against this team, even though they haven't got Warne and McGrath."

The players within the current Australian set-up are rather more diplomatic in their opinion of Bell than their former team-mate, although Michael Clarke did allude to the possibility that they were rather pleased to have him in their sights rather than Pietersen. "England will be disappointed to lose Kevin," said Clarke. "Any time a very good player is no longer playing it will give the team a boost, but it's important we concentrate on Ian. He is a wonderful player and has been successful around the world. We have to study Ian and look at where he scores his runs. We know he's a good player."

Whatever happens this week, Bell believes he is fighting fit for the challenge, a legacy of the strenuous fitness work he put in during England's tour of the Caribbean in February and March. After being made a scapegoat for England's humiliation at Kingston in the opening Test of the series, Bell did not play again in the series, and instead worked hard with Reg Dickason, the team's security advisor, boxing on the beach at 6 o'clock in the morning, and using a rare break from the front line to work on an area of his game that goes beyond mere batting practice.

"Reg helped me through for two months that could have gone either way," said Bell. "I could have been sitting on my bum not doing a lot, or getting up and making sure that by the time the England season came around I was physically ready to just worry about cricket, and nothing else. By the end of our sessions I'd be on my knees, but Reg was good to me, he wanted to work me hard and by the time the season came around I'd used that opportunity to absolutely nail something that, with the amount of cricket we play, we don't often get that window to do."

The circumstances of Bell's axing in the Caribbean provided a particular spur for his sparring sessions. A loose shot on the stroke of lunch on the fourth day at Sabina Park set in motion a collapse of such dramatic proportions that the game was all over by tea, with England rolled over for an embarrassing 51. "After Jamaica, a Test like that, your last Test, there are a lot of thoughts in there about how you want to carry on. There was a lot of motivation in there for wanting to train hard that winter, so that I could take my opportunity."

Even after the training, Bell still had to wait, and the size of the task he faced to get back in the side was brought home to him on the first day of England's home season against West Indies at Lord's in May, a fixture he had not missed since 2006. "The first time the guys walked out [of the pavilion], watching that on the screen here at Edgbaston, really hit home to me what it means to be involved in a Test match for your country. Because of the game I was playing here, I very quickly had to get that out of my mind, but for [the] first ten minutes I couldn't think of anything else. That told me how much it hurt."

And so it all comes down to the chance he has before him. A clear run through to September is his if he wants it, with Pietersen laid low and few other contenders making their presence known on the county circuit. "At 27, I still have a lot to offer international cricket," said Bell. "I thought I'd have to wait a lot longer to get this opportunity, but this is a chance I've got to go and show people how good a player I am."

WICB-WIPA dispute may be resolved in August

The deadline for brokering a deal in the bitter dispute between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) has been set for August. Shridath Ramphal, who has been given the responsibility of mediating negotiations, said it was critically important that an urgent solution was found, so that cricket in the region could return to a state of normalcy.

Following his first meeting with both parties on Sunday, Ramphal said he believed the deadline would be possible to meet as both sides were keen on moving swiftly towards a resolution. "The parties, who were with me together over those many hours, and I share that view that we've got to get on with this quickly," Ramphal told CMC Sports.

"My own timeline - although the meeting hasn't put a time on it - my own personal hope is that we can see this process through within August. By the end of August, this should be a process done and put behind us with a line drawn in the sand and with the future for West Indies cricket and the whole region, and indeed international sport [settled]."

Ramphal, a former commonwealth secretary-general, was appointed to mediate, following a meeting between the WIPA, the WICB and Guyana president Bharrat Jagdeo, who is also chairman of the 15-nation trading bloc Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), in Georgetown last Tuesday.

The meeting ended the stand-off between WIPA and the board, because of which the first-choice West Indies players refused to play in the ongoing home series against Bangladesh, citing pay and contract issues as their main grievances.

Ramphal also said the issue of West Indies cricket was too important for the mediation process to be treated lightly. "In Guyana, under the agreement that Jagdeo brokered as chairman of CARICOM, they called on the parties to proceed to mediation - in the language of the agreement - with expedition and I can understand why they did that," Ramphal said.

"West Indies cricket cannot afford a long stalemate, which is the situation we are in now. These issues that so trouble the game in the West Indies, trouble the game in the world and I'm sure that England and Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India - they are all looking. At this intimate process and hoping that the West Indies will get its act together and resume its prominent place in world cricket."

The impasse forced the selectors to hastily assemble a makeshift squad for the Bangladesh series and select a largely inexperienced 30-man provisional squad for the Champions Trophy in September. Though the first choice players have subsequently made themselves available, the WICB has opted not to revise the provisional squad.

Bangladesh take series with tight win

Bangladesh 276 for 7 (Shakib 65, Ashraful 64) beat West Indies 274 for 5 (Dowlin 100*, Smith 44) by three wickets

Every time they step on the field, Bangladesh seem to be making history. After having beaten West Indies for the first time in Tests and ODIs, they today sealed their first ODI series win against the hosts. More importantly, this win came by way of their highest successful chase in the limited-overs format, reaching the requisite 275 with six balls to spare.

At the centre of the accomplishment once again was Shakib Al Hasan, pulling West Indies back from a flying start, and then seeing his team through a tricky chase with a calm 65. Mohammad Ashraful, who got to back-to-back fifties for the first time since 2006, set up the Bangladesh reply after the openers struggled on a sluggish pitch that made it difficult to stroke the ball cleanly. The Shakib-Ashraful combination outdid an exceptional effort from Travis Dowlin, whose maiden international century lifted a fledgling West Indies to a fighting total.

Ashraful and Shakib came together after a sensible third-wicket partnership between Ashraful and Raqibul Hasan had ended, thanks to the pressure created by a slow pitch and tight bowling. Nevertheless, they had added 52 after the openers fell in a quick succession.

It was here that Ashraful took the lead, not letting the pressure mount. He first made room and slashed Bernard in the 28th over for the first boundary in 70 balls. When Rawl Lewis replaced Bernard in the next over, Ashraful lofted him over long-off for a six, bringing up his second fifty in three days. Shakib joined him in that charge, sweeping both Lewis and Bernard over midwicket. Those three overs brought Bangladesh 32 runs, and also brought down the asking-rate to less than six.

When Ashraful went for another six off Lewis, he put his team in a tricky state again, holing out to long-off. Until then, his 77-ball 64 had been well-paced, and he had added 74 with Shakib in 63 deliveries. But with 85 still required, Shakib had a major role to play. The boundaries were not easy to come - even Lewis negated the big sweep with googlies and straighter ones - but Shakib ran purposefully. He had to run all but six of his last 50 runs, but hardly did he ever let the scoring-rate fall.

During the match, the cameras panned to a spectator reading a magazine article on Shakib, titled the "Ice Man". Shakib indeed played like one, but needed some luck on his side. With 71 required off 60, Shakib tried to hit Lewis out of the ground, only skying it to land perfectly between cover and long-off, which also resulted in a collision between Darren Sammy and Bernard. That shot also took Shakib to his half-century, kicking off a spell of ordinary cricket from both sides.

With 56 needed off the last eight overs, Shakib called for the batting Powerplay, and Roach immediately threatened to finish the match in a hurry. Even before he could do that, Floyd Reifer almost let him bowl with five fielders outside the circle. Roach started with a half-volley and a fulltoss both hit for boundaries, before bowling his second beamer of the match to be removed from the attack. What's more, Shakib deposited it for a six.

Now it was the Ice Man's turn to falter with the match almost pocketed. He swung across the line to Sammy, getting out with 37 needed off 41. Three wides came in the next two overs before Bangladesh contributed their bit to the chaos. Devon Thomas, the designated wicketkeeper, had to bowl what was left of Roach's overs, and Mahmudullah gifted his second delivery with a leading edge. Riefer brought the fine leg up, Thomas saw two of his straight deliveries being punished and bowled two off-side wides to compensate. Mushfiqur returned the favour by hitting a fulltoss straight to cover. During that surreal period, the only question was which team wanted to lose more badly.

An overthrow here, an edge there, and Bangladesh reached the series win with an outside-edged boundary by Abdur Razzak. During this period of drama, the turnaround earlier in the day was almost forgotten.

For the majority of the first innings, both Dowlin and West Indies seemed to struggle to get the ball off the square against the spinners. West Indies had huffed and puffed their way to 176 for 4 in 40 overs, struggling to combat the grip and the turn. Dowlin's story was no different - he took 88 deliveries to reach his fifty and had trouble with his running between the wickets, too.

But with the Powerplay taken in the 41st over, things changed. Dowlin slog-swept the spinners with vengeance, getting close to the pitch every time, and hitting to long-on, cow corner, midwicket, square leg, et al. By the end of the Powerplay, West Indies had reached 216 for 5, and Dowlin 87 off 105 deliveries. In the next five overs, Dowlin took little time to reach his maiden century, and Lewis and Sammy made sure West Indies finished with 98 runs in their last ten overs. In the end, though, they were to be second-best.

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