What was initially thought would be an easy game it has now turned out to be a tough challenge for Bangladesh as they face Afghanistan in their seventh match of the World Cup in Southampton today.
The Afghans put up a brave show against favourites India on a slow pitch at the Hampshire bowl before falling short by just 11 runs, largely due to their inexperience.
Bangladesh will play the game on the same pitch, which was expected to help the Afghan spinners, particularly Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi, who troubled the Tigers several times in the past.
The Tigers had very little home work for the spinners coming into the World Cup, where most of the team tested them with their quick bowlers, throwing a barrage of short balls.
Afghanistan do not have any express bowler in the line-up to bowl at 140km speed and relied on their spinners throughout the tournament, which did not work most of the time expect once.
The spinners of the side bowled 34 overs against India to give away just 119 runs at an economy rate of 3.5 which is an encouraging sign for them ahead of Bangladesh game.
India, arguably the best batting side against spin, nearly paid the price after they were restricted to 224-8 but survived through their illustrious bowling line-up that successfully defended the modest score.
Unlike India, Bangladesh do not have a very strong bowling unit that would stave off an upset in case of a batting failure.
The Tigers are the only bowling side in the World Cup to concede over 300 runs in four matches and need a dramatic improvement in their performance if they are to survive in a similar situation.
Afghans therefore have planned to come hard at Bangladeshi batting that is led by mercurial Sakib al Hasan, who has so far scored 425 runs, only second behind Australia’s David Warner in the tournament.
‘Sakib will go out quickly off Rashid’s bowling,’ quipped Afghanistan skipper Gulbadin Naib while speaking to reporters during an informal gathering in Southampton on Saturday.
‘But it will be an interesting game. Whoever plays better they will win,’ said Naib, who had to tackle a lot of issues to keep his disintegrated Afghan team charged up in their winless World Cup campaign.
Naib’s biggest task for today’s game will be keeping Rashid motivated after he conceded a record 11 sixes against England to give away a record 110 runs at Manchester last week.
Rashid regained his composure somewhat after returning with 1-38 against India and a similar show against Bangladesh on a spin-friendly wicket may complete his redemption.
Bangladesh, however, have their full respect for the side, especially for Rashid despite his off-colour show in the tournament.
‘Rashid Khan is a wonderful bowler. I know he went for plenty of runs against England. It was just one of those days for him,’ said Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes.
‘Generally he is very, very aggressive and tight at the same time. He is a quality bowler.
The other two spinners – Nabi and Mujeeb – are quality too. We respect them, but we don’t fear.
‘The lads grew up on spinning wickets but we will respect them because they are top international bowlers,’ he said.
Mohammad Saifuddin and Mosaddek Hossain are expected for Bangladesh after an injury break, which may require Sabbir Rahman and Rubel Hossain to make way for them.
Source: New Age.