MIRPUR: Bangladesh spinners, so ineffective against India, rediscovered their magical touch on Friday to fashion an exciting 27-run win over Ireland in a low-scoring Group B match of the 2011 World Cup at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium here.
It was a torturous win for Bangladesh, who were bowled out for a meagre 205 after frittering away a blistering start, but it kept the co-hosts firmly in contention for a berth in the knock-out stage.
Ireland batsmen, who had no inkling about how to play the play the turning ball, were easy pickings for wily Bangla spinners, who bundled them out for 178 in 45 overs with some help from pacer Shafiul Islam, who passed a fitness test in the morning. Shafiul, who grabbed three of the last four Ireland wickets, finished with figures of 4/21.
Ironically, it was part-timer Mohammad Ashraful's innocuous off-spin that turned the match Bangladesh's way after frontline spinners Abdur Razzak, skipper Shakib Al Hasan made the initial breakthroughs. Playing in place of Mahmudullah, Ashraful, who had earlier played a horrendous shot to get out cheaply, made amends by dismissing the experienced duo of Ed Joyce (16) and Andrew White (10), fooling both with a clever variation of pace and trajectory.
Ireland's hopes of sneaking an improbable win under the lights rested on the O'Brien brothers, Niall and Kevin. While Niall, looked more compact of the two, Kevin showed he had the big shots. They contributed 38 and 37, respectively, but threw away their wickets after having played themselves in.
Joyce's soft dismissal to Ashraful showed why he failed to win an England Test cap and skipper William Porterfield's unshakable faith in gangly pacer Boyd Rankin was hard to fathom, particularly as he struggled with both length and direction right through the Bangladesh innings.
In the end, it was a crucial 23-run ninth-wicket partnership between Naeem and Razzak, that made all the difference. Bangladesh, who got off to a rousing start through their openers Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes, ought to have posted a total in excess of 250 after Shakib elected to bat.
Tamim, who top-scored with 70 against India, looked to be in super touch as he cut, drove and flicked Rankin and Trent Johnston to log 44 off 43 balls that won him the Man-of-the-Match award. With Kayes also joining the party with a brilliantly square-driven boundary off Rankin, Bangladesh raced to 50 off 5.4 overs.
A smart leg-side stumping off a wide, effected by wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien to send Kayes packing, and Joyce scoring a direct hit from mid-off to catch Junaid Siddique short of the crease, brought Ireland back in the game.
Alarm bells started ringing in the Bangla dressing room when Tamim played a lazy cut off Andre Botha shortly afterward and was held by Porterfield at point. Shakib began with a flourish, but refused to mix caution with aggression despite being dropped by Porterfield at point off Rankin when he was on 15. He paid the price for pushing early at a Botha delivery as the ball popped up for nicely for the bowler to hold.
Mushfiqur Rahim and Rokibul Hasan rebuilt the Bangladesh innings with a sensible 61-run partnership for the fifth wicket before the former had a rush of blood and departed, top-edging an intended sweep off left-arm spinner George Dockrell. And with Mohammad Ashraful departing much in the same fashion two overs later, early 'dinner' was on cards. However, Roqibul (38), Naeem (29) and Razzak (11) ensured that Bangladesh spinners had something to bowl at.