The World Cup 2019 is so far going in a predictable way for Bangladesh as they managed one win out of their first three matches, went close to winning another one and lost one badly to home side England.
Before flying to the United Kingdom, skipper Mashrafee bin Murtaza often mentioned in public that the first three matches would determine how far they can actually go in the tournament.
He hoped that a win would suffice in this crucial phase, which would follow two relatively easier games respectively against Sri Lanka and West Indies – the two teams that Bangladesh were expecting to beat.
Nothing happened so far in the tournament that would hit the confidence of the Tigers, expect for the off form of some key players, who were very crucial for their success in the past.
Tamim Iqbal for example looked agonisingly short of ideas, having scored just 59 runs so far in three matches at 19.66 despite England being his happy hunting ground.
Mahmudullah made vital contribution in the 21-run win against South Africa but he too looked a pale shadow of his own-self in the next two matches against New Zealand and England.
Until Sunday, Mushfiqur Rahim was among the top-five run getters in the tournament but that is largely because of his brilliant half-century against South Africa.
He looked in fine touch in both the matches against New Zealand and England and just when it appeared that the wicketkeeper-batsman was destined for something great, Mushfiq faltered.
Despite chasing a record target of 387 runs, Bangladesh were still in the competition in the England game as long as Mushfiq accompanied Sakib in their 106-run stand.
With the ball, Mohammad Saifuddin ticked the correct boxes with six wickets in three matches while Mehedi Hasan brought an occasional breakthrough or two even in a hostile condition like Cardiff.
But the two bowlers who Bangladesh dearly needed to fire – Mashrafee bin Murtaza and Mustafizur Rahman – could hardly meet the expectations and were nowhere near their bests.
Mustafiz’s off-cutter seemed ineffective in English conditions and he apparently lacked any other weapon in his armoury.
He got some success when wicket offered some grip for the pace bowlers in a used pitch against South Africa but appeared ineffective in fresh wickets.
Mashrafee even could not complete his quota in the last game when England batsmen feasted on his bowling.
Mashrafee prevented his own record of going for the longest period without a wicket when he scalped Jonny Bairstow in England game. It must have brought a sense of relief for Mashrafee, whose lack of pace made him suffer in the first two matches.
So far everything has gone right for only one player, Sakib al Hasan, who not only enjoyed a commendable success with the bat but was also economical with the ball.
Bangladesh had to use him early in both New Zealand and South African matches, meaning his last few overs had to be rationed heavily, which only made the opposition feel at ease.
If Sakib can maintain his form he can achieve something great in this tournament, but Bangladesh needed to show they are not just about Sakib.
The Tigers have succeeded without the presence of the all-rounder, notably in the Asia Cup last year and in the recent tri-series final against West Indies in Ireland.
On both of those occasions, the other players from the core group raised their hands to make up for the absence of Sakib. All they need is now to show the similar character when the all-rounder is going great.
If they can fire on all cylinders the dream for a place in World Cup semi-final may not seem too far away.
Source: New Age.