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From the front

DHAKA – Captain Darren Sammy led from the front with both bat and ball as West Indies defeated Bangladesh by 75 runs at Mirpur today to square their five-match series going into the final game at the same venue tomorrow.

Captain Darren Sammy swung the match in West Indies’ favour with a half-century and three wickets.

Sammy struck a timely unbeaten 60 to salvage an otherwise unconvincing batting performance as West Indies finished on 211 for 9. Then he returned with the new ball to wreck the hosts’ top order which, despite a late order fight-back, basically decided the outcome of the match.

Having bowled well to restrict the West Indies, Bangladesh would have fancied their chances of wrapping up their second series win at home against a formidable side in two years. During the mid-innings break, judging by the threat posed by their own spinners, Bangladesh would have discussed Sunil Narine at length. By the time Narine came on to bowl, Bangladesh had lost half their side – they were 13 for 5 – and it was the West Indies seamers, Sammy and Kemar Roach, who got the ball to wobble around under lights. The expectant crowd had a glimmer of hope via a positive half-century stand between Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah, but Mushfiqur’s departure ensured the initiative remained with West Indies.

The slide began in the second over when Anamul Haque popped a tame leading edge back to Sammy. He slanted the following ball across the right-hander and Naeem Islam edged to Darren Bravo at second slip. Two balls later, Roach softened Tamim Iqbal up with a short ball and then followed it up with a fuller delivery which skidded through and clipped the stumps. Bangladesh were reeling at 4 for 3 and their chances of overhauling what looked like a modest target had receded considerably.

The dire situation got worse for Bangladesh when Nasir Hossain edged Roach low to the wicketkeeper. The first four wickets were all done in by the seam movement. Mominul Haque perished trying to literally pull Bangladesh out of the rut, finding Kieron Pollard at square leg. At 13 for 5, Mushfiqur’s task of guiding his side to a position of respectability, let alone victory, was far greater than his opposing number’s.

It took nearly eight overs for Bangladesh to register their first boundary, a firm push by Mahmudullah down the ground off Sammy, followed by an elegant flick past midwicket. Mahmudullah looked to take control by chipping down the track and cutting strongly square of the wicket. Mushfiqur too played some authoritative slogs against the spinners, conscious of not allowing them to settle.

The decibel levels picked up in the crowd as the sixth-wicket pair showed fight. The hush returned when Mushfiqur was stumped off the carom ball, beaten in flight and turn. Narine, brought on as late as the 16th over, troubled Mushfiqur with the carom ball earlier and it looked like a wicket was always around the corner. At 87 for 6, the fight had gone out of Bangladesh and Mahmudullah, who ran out of partners.

It was a pitch that tested the skills of the batsmen from both sides. West Indies’ struggles against spin were exposed yet again as they scrapped and later recovered to 211. West Indies lost wickets in a clump – four specialist batsmen for nine runs, resisted with a watchful stand between the two Darrens – Bravo and Sammy, stumbled again before the captain Sammy himself struck late blows when Bangladesh took their eyes off the ball.

It was a combination of incisive spin bowling in helpful conditions and impetuous strokes that contributed to West Indies’ precarious position at the start. West Indies needed an in-form batsman to pilot the innings, but Marlon Samuels’ departure seemed to have a profound impact as the likes of the hapless Dwayne Smith and Kieron Pollard were left swimming against the tide.

Bravo and Sammy then made a slow recovery, giving the spinners their due and pinched the singles in a stand of 43, the best of the innings. After Bravo fell cheaply for 34, it was left to Sammy to muster as much as he could with the tail-enders. His first six, off Mahmudullah, was hit straight back and he tried to repeat that off Mashrafe Mortaza but was lucky to be dropped by Sohag Gazi at deep midwicket. That let off cost Bangladesh 30 runs as Sammy tore into the spinners in the final two overs with only No.11 Kemar Roach for company. Sammy’s ferocious bat speed was responsible for his seven boundaries.

West Indies smacked 81 off the last ten overs to give the bowlers some runs to work with. It was more than what they could have asked for and fittingly, Sammy took the final catch to seal the series leveller. (Cricinfo/WG)

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