Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Comfortably placed Bangladesh look to avoid slip-ups. Shakib Al Hasan's recent run of low scores with the bat would be a cause of concern for Bangladesh
Shakib Al Hasan's recent run of low scores with the bat would be a cause of concern for Bangladesh
Of all the sides consigned to the qualifying “First Round” of the T20 WC, Bangladesh arguably have the most reason to feel hard done by. Ranked outside the top eight at the cut-off almost three years ago, recent success in the format has seen them rise to sixth. Despite the tournament being re-seeded Mahmudullah Riyad's side were not granted an automatic berth in the main draw. That said, had the tournament gone ahead as scheduled, they would have faced the daunting prospect of playing the First Round in Australian conditions without the iconic Shakib al Hasan. Against that hypothetical, a trip to the Middle East looks eminently preferable, though they might have preferred to do their qualifying on the low slow decks of the UAE rather than the comparatively fresh and relatively batting-friendly wickets at Muscat. Nonetheless, Bangladesh find themselves in what is generally agreed to be the marginally easier of the two groups, and despite Oman's home advantage, Scotland's momentum and Papua New Guinea's irrepressible penchant for upsets, they have reason to be comparatively confident.
The expansion of the main draw to 12 teams means there's an extra berth on offer in each of the First Round groups, but the margin for error remains slim as even a single loss could leave a team dependent on neutral results and net run rate to get them through. Bangladesh will not be unfamiliar with such considerations, having just scraped past Nepal on net run rate in 2014 after losing to Hong Kong, and while two years later an 8-run win over the Dutch proved enough, things might have turned out very differently had the rain chosen different days to fall.
Based on experience, Bangladesh will thus know how slim the margins can be in the quickfire re-qualifying round, and the sides recent warm-up games have highlighted some of their vulnerabilities. Not least among them is a comparatively callow top order. Tamim Iqbal, who saw them through the 2016 first round almost single-handedly with scores of 83*, 47 and 103* and finished lead run-scorer at that edition, opted out of the tournament to make way for younger players and Bangladesh have since lacked a dependable bat at the top of the order, with neither Mohammad Naim nor Linton Das looking entirely convincing in the role.
Two scores in the 140s against Sri Lanka and Ireland in their warm-up matches underline the limitations of the batting and Bangladesh remain reliant for runs on the worryingly out-of-form Mushfiqur Rahim and skipper Mahmudullah, together with the returning Shakib al Hasan. Though Nurul Hasan has looked dangerous down the order, the capacity for late acceleration is also far from certain. The strength of the bowling alone nonetheless makes them favourites to progress, with a varied seam attack including a stand-out death bowler in Mustafizur Rahman, Shakib providing four overs of world-class spin, and sufficient further slow-bowling options to keep the pressure building if the opposition looks to see him off, there are few obvious bowlers to target in the Bangladesh attack.
Yet coming up against an in-form Scotland side in their opening match, Bangladesh will have to fire from the get-go and though it is the Scots' batting line-up that will most worry the Bangladeshi camp, Oman and even PNG likewise have the capability to take advantage should Bangladesh not find their form with the ball. and in the hosts' case, the bowling to cause them real problems. If Bangladesh arrived in the Middle East confident rather than complacent, the results of the last two days of warm-ups will have set alarm bells ringing. Though they remain the strongest team in Group B, they will have to step up their game if they are to book their flights onward to the UAE rather than back home.
Danger Man: Mustafizur Rahman's death bowling is a key point of difference that puts the Bangladesh attack above their rivals. While the slow bowlers, especially Shakib, will likely come into their own if Bangladesh make it to the Emirates, they could be seen off on Muscat's less turn-assisting pitches. But Mustafizur's ability to choke teams out at the death not only limits the damage their opponents adventurous bats can do late, his overs-in-hand may pressure teams to take ill-advised risks earlier in the innings.
Rising Star: Nasum Ahmed plays a somewhat unobtrusive role for the side. The left arm spinner often entrusted with the new ball and charged with containment in the powerplay and the effect of his early economy on the course of an innings is not always obvious, but will likely be exaggerated in slower conditions where runs are hard to find once the field spreads. He may find the going tougher in the first round at Muscat, especially should Bangladesh employ him early, but is likely to shine should Bangladesh make the second round on the slower, spinning decks of UAE especially as the tournament wears on.
Key Question: Shakib al Hasan has been Bangladesh's trump card across formats for a decade, and while his form with the ball is not in doubt, he comes back into the side without significant runs under his belt. Given Mushfiqur's recent struggles and the fragility of the top order his role in driving the scoring in the middle overs may prove key. If his lack of time in the middle tells, Bangladesh may struggle to post competitive totals.
Strengths: A balanced and versatile attack with two genuine world-class stars in Shakib and Mustafizur, Bangladesh have the ability to run through line-ups who, while not naive to top quality bowling, may be less accustomed to 20 consistent overs of it.
Weaknesses: A misfiring and unstable top three, coupled with a lack of firepower in the lower order to compensate, means their Associate opposition will not be intimidated when taking the field against Bangladesh. Das, Naim and Sarkar's 2021 averages combined barely amount to fifty runs a game, and the three have collectively been striking at hardly over a run a ball. If Bangladesh's bowlers are not on-point, they cannot rely on the batting to save their blushes.
Past Highs and Lows: The high point for Bangladesh at the T20 WC (as it was then known) arguably came in their first-ever fixture, where Shakib and Aftab Ahmed saw them to a six-wicket win over the Windies. A prolonged victory drought followed, their losing streak including a defeat at the hands of then-Associate Ireland in 2009. But the low point must surely be the loss to Hong Kong in the 2014 edition that almost saw them crash out of their home tournament in the First Round, before again going winless in the main draw. Bangladesh will hope the rebranding of the tournament augurs a fresh start for them.
Bangladesh vs Scotland – Al Amerat Cricket Stadium – 14:00, Sunday, October 17
Oman vs Bangladesh – Al Amerat Cricket Stadium – 18:00, Tuesday, October 19 (D/N)
Bangladesh vs PNG – Al Amerat Cricket Stadium – 14:00, Thursday, October 21