With the Cricket World Cup being wide open all of a sudden, Bangladesh are set to launch their semi-final mission afresh by taking on a spirited Afghanistan in Southampton today.
The Tigers’ prospect to reach the last-four race looked bleak following their 48-run defeat against mighty Australia on Thursday.But, Sri Lanka did a stunner by upstaging hosts England — a victory that also favours Bangladesh.
Bangladesh’s semi-final hope is revived out of nothing but based on the condition that they would have to win their rest three matches in the tournament.
But the spirited show that Afghanistan put up against India is enough to leave Bangladesh in a tensed state.
Another worrying factor is that Bangladesh will take on Afghanistan at the same ground where India’s much-vaunted batting lineup crumbled against the Afghan three-prong spin attack, consisted with Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Afghanistan eventually lost the match by 11 runs, but such a sort of defeat against a side, full with world class batsmen and bowlers, would be a confidence booster.
And Bangladesh actually have no reason to underestimate Afghanistan even though they held the advantage in face-to-face battle, winning four and losing three in seven encounters.The Tigers also crushed Afghanistan by 105 runs in the 2015 World Cup, hosted jointly by Australia-New Zealand, their only meeting in the cricket’s biggest extravaganza so far.
But in the last Asia Cup held in Dubai in 2018, Bangladesh tasted a humiliating 136-run defeat to Afghans, before sealing a narrow three-run victory in return-leg match.
Bangladesh also lost a match to Afghanistan in the Asia Cup in 2014 on their home soil.
As far as the multinational tournament including World Cup is concerned, they faced off each other four times and the result locked at 2-2.
So the statistics suggested that Afghans were never a pushover for Bangladesh.
But the Tigers still should be absolutely favourite in this World Cup match, given their performance, cricket culture and history.
While Afghanistan have no performance of worth apart from the match against India, Bangladesh had already beat two top teams in South Africa and West Indies.
They tasted a two-wicket defeat to New Zealand and put up a huge fight in pursuit of the 382-run target against Australia before going down by 48 runs. Only match in which they were hapless was against England, losing the game by 106 runs.
It is widely believed that Bangladesh could beat Sri Lanka, but the game was washed out due to rain.
Bangladesh also have the in-form batsmen like Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim who already scored three centuries.
Shakib’s four match fifty-plus score streak (including two straight centuries) came to an end against Australia when he was out on 41. Mushfiqur’s blasted a 97 ball-102 against Australia.
For the Tigers, the good news is that opener Tamim Iqbal and middle-order batsman Mahmudullah Riyad also found their form, hitting half-century each against Australia.
Only thing that could make them worried to some extent their fast bowlers’ performance.
Bangladesh felt the absence of Mohammad Saifuddin badly in the match against Australia as they conceded 136 runs in last 10 overs.
Saifuddin, however, remained uncertain for the match against Afghanistan as he is yet to recover from his side strain but Mosaddek Hossain Saikat who was also ruled out against Australia with shoulder injury is in line to return to the fold.
Sabbir Rahman who missed a catch of Warner, a run-out chance of Usman Khawaja and got out with first ball-duck against Australia are but sure to be axed to pave the way for Mosaddek.
Bangladesh heaved a sigh of relief as Mehedi Hasan Miraz is understood to be out of danger despite being struck on the head side by a ball during a net session.
The incident occurred while Mehedi was giving an interview, on the sidelines of the practice session, on the eve of Bangladesh’s match against Afghanistan.
“Mehidy apparently wanted to continue batting in the nets but was not allowed,” said BCB media manager Rabeed Imam.