Before the World Cup, I wrote "It is extremely unlikely that any of the second eight teams will make the second round. It is quite unlikely that any of the second eight teams will win a game against any of the first eight, although such events have occurred in previous tournaments", with the eight teams I was referring to being Australia, New Zealand, England, the West Indies, South Africa, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Of course, I soon ate a certain amount of crow after Bangladesh and Ireland scored victories and India and Pakistan were eliminated.
However, although Bangladesh did what was expected to beat Bermuda and qualify for the Super Eights, their next few games were not all that impressive. They lost heavily to Sri Lanka in the first round, and then to New Zealand and Australia in the Super Eights. My thoughts were that if they could beat Ireland and scrape a victory against one of the underperforming sides or England and West Indies, they would go hoem with their heads high and a successful World Cup behind them, and strong prospects of doing better next time.
Going into today's match, there were really two opinions about Bangladesh's presence in the Super Eights. There was the "The minnows have ruined the World Cup by making the Super Eight" position, and there was the "Bangladesh's cricket team is on the rise" position (put eloquently by Rahul Bhattacharya in the linked artcle - go read it). I do not and did not agree with the first position - Bangladesh and Ireland earned their places and India and Pakistan deserved to go out - but I none the less missed the excitement of having India in particular in the tournament. On the second, well, I am delighted that Bangladesh are improving, particularly given the enthusiasm of the players and most Bangladeshis I meet, but I still had doubts as to wether Bangladesh had reached the point where they were a competitive side.
I did not give them any chance against South Africa today. I really should have learned better after the India match. I will not doubt them again - they deserve their place as a major international side. They played splendidly against South Africa today, and deserved their win.
Bangladesh got off to a decent start, scoring 41 for the first wicket. They then lost four wickets, and were 4/84 after 24 overs. They could have lost heart at that point, but they did not. Aftab Ahmed stuck in for 35 as Mohammad Ashruful batted superbly, ultimately being out for 87 in the last over. Thanks to lower order support from Mushrafe Mortaza at the end, Bangladesh ended up with an excellent score of 8/251 off 50 overs. That was certainly something to bowl at, and when they came out they were more enthusiastic in the field than just about any side I have ever seen. Rasel and Razzak removed the dangerous trio of Smith, Kallis, and de Villiers, and it was 3/64. Prince fell soon after to a fine run out, and at that point Bangladesh were on top. And they didn't ever lose it. Saqibul Hasan was on a hat trick after removing Boucher and Kemp with successive balls. (The first dismissal was very intelligent. Having been hit for six by Boucher the previous ball, Hasan tempted Boucher to go for it again, and he was caught in the outfield. The second was a very good caught and bowled, and to say that Hasan was ecstatic doesn't beging to go there). Pollock and Gibbs (who came in with a runner at 7, after getting injured earlier) hung in for a bit, but they weren't getting the run rate. In any event, if there was danger Tamim Iqbal threw down the stumps to remove Pollock - an even better run out than the first one. Dav Whatmore has taught his team to field, and in a match like this this matters. Gibbs hung in to the end, scoring 56 not out, but I was not impressed. I have no idea how badly injured he is, but he made no attempt to score boundaries and just take the loss. He didn't seem adequately disgusted with the match situation, either, shaking hands with his partner and smiling when he got his 50. Steve Waugh wouldn't have tolerated this.
But it was all over when South Africa were bowled out for 184 in the 49th over. Bangladesh won by 67 runs.
Looking at the table the fourth place in the semi-finals is more open. South Africa are still probably favoured to get there, but England, Bangladesh and even the West Indies have a chance. It may be that a side will make it with only six points. If that happens, England are a strong chance, as their run rate is presently better than the others. They must try to beat Australia tomorrow, or at the worst, if they do lose they must do so narrowly to preseve that run rate. Bangladesh have the worst run rate due to the heaviness of their earlier defeats to Australia and New Zealand. To go through they still probably need to beat all of England, West Indies, and Ireland. Although all of these are probably easier than South Africa today, asking them to win all three is a lot.
But they must now be confident. Good luck to them.
Correction: When I originally posted this, I said that "Bangladesh lost heavily to India in the first round". Obviously I meant to type "Sri Lanka", not India. Sorry.