Ireland lost by a wide margin to Bangladesh again yesterday, but it could not be said this time that they were never in the game. Chasing 247 for victory, the tourists were well-set at 144-5 with 16 overs to go. Andre Botha and Alex Cusack had crafted a partnership of 52 and were poised to accelerate towards the chequered flag, only to suddenly break down. The dismissal of Botha sparked a dramatic capitulation. Four wickets fell within 12 deliveries and scuppered any hope Ireland had of keeping this three-match series alive ahead of tomorrow's final instalment.
A few lusty blows from Kyle McCallan brought down the margin of defeat, but Bangladesh won the second one-day international by 84 runs, emphasising their superiority over their World Cup conquerors when it comes to home advantage. Ireland could rightfully call on the searing temperatures as a mitigating factor for being outplayed twice by a team who have been playing continuously over the winter. However, their highly-rated batsman will be dejected that none has made more than 40 in the opening two one-day games of the year.
Skipper Trent Johnston was keen to stress the positives, however. "We didn't just get our three disciplines right today. I thought we did pretty well in the field today to restrict them to 246. The bowlers did better, and I thought Dave Langford-Smith was outstanding today to get his 3-43. I felt it was a chaseable total. If I'd been batting first, its the sort of target I'd have liked to post. We lost early wickets, and weren't able to keep the wickets in hand that was required. That was the difference in the two teams."
Setting off in pursuit of Bangladesh's 246-8 yesterday, William Porterfield and Reinhardt Strydom began in very positive fashion, taking 42 from the first 10 overs. However, they were riding their luck with some adventurous shot selections. Suddenly Ireland suffered a severe jolt to their prospects when Strydom, having twice been dropped, was trapped LBW by spinner Abdul Razzak. Then Eoin Morgan and Porterfield perished in successive balls, both caught when trying to score off the medium-paced deliveries of Farhad Reza. That left the O'Brien brothers to consolidate. Kevin hit 21 and Niall 18, but a longer stay at the crease was vital. Undeterred, Botha and Cusack handled the asking rate of six runs an over with maturity. Bangladesh captain Mohammed Ashraful must have been starting to fret when the magical '100 to win' loomed large for the visitors, but all of a sudden the contest was over. The level-headed Botha had made a serene 34 off 36 balls but unexpectedly drove a return catch to Reza, who took it gladly along with the Man-of-the-Match award for his figures of 5-42.
Captain Trent Johnston was Ireland's last real hope, but he didn't last long, falling victim to the left-arm guiles of Razzak. After he went, Ireland's lower order folded like a deck of cards. Earlier in the day, Bangladesh had started solidly with the bat, playing with controlled aggression under the orders from their Australian coach, Jamie Siddons. Only when McCallan brought his slow bowling to the table did the visitors get a breakthrough, by which time the Tigers had 94 runs from 25 overs. And it was another 10 overs until Shahriar Nafees became the first of two run-out victims for Dave Langford-Smith. The recalled Aftab Ahmed, though, was clearly in destructive mood and smashed sixes off Botha and Greg Thomson before going for one lash at the boundary too many, giving the young leg-spinner his first ODI scalp.
At least Ireland had the consolation of playing in front of another huge crowd of 22,000. "It's just a great experience for the guys to be playing in front of such a huge and fanatical support", said Johnston. "I'm told there is a 40,000 full house expected for Saturday, so the noise will be just deafening and the atmosphere electric. It's something special for us, and hopefully it will lift our game, and we can finish on a winning note.