England have scripted a comprehensive victory against Bangladesh and back to back defeats would obviously hamper the confidence of the Tigers. Now, it’s time for Mashrafe Bin Mortaza to lead from the front. He is having a very mediocre tournament by his standards and it is time for Mash to buck up!
England have a revolution in the 50-over format since last World Cup down-under. Led by Eoin Morgan England shrugged off their defensive approach in Oneday International (ODI) Cricket and embraced the fearless brand, which was absent more often since they started off their journey in limited-overs format. In the past, they did win matches, but all those used to get overshadowed by some disgraceful defeats. But England changed and thankfully they changed into a team, which can crush any opposition ruthlessly. Not surprisingly, they are the number 1 team in the ICC ODI rankings.
Obviously, before facing England, a team, which rank 7th in the current ICC ODI rankings, would not even fancy themselves of beating them. But mind you, that number 7 team has a good track against England in the World Cups. England beat them in 2007 but in the next two editions – 2015 and 2019, Bangladesh had overcome the English threat and in Australia, they knocked them out of the tournament. Even three years ago, they had a very fighting ODI series and drew the Test series at their own backyard. Moreover, keeping in mind the recent improvement of Tigers, one cannot write off Bangladesh so easily.
Cardiff was in a festive mood triggered by the passionate Bangladeshi fans, but in the end, it was England who scripted a comprehensive victory. That defeat against Pakistan at Trent Bridge hurt and such a dominating victory against one of the Giant Killers of the tournament is a huge boost for the English morale.
Meanwhile, after that marvelous win against South Africa and the close shave against New Zealand at the Oval, Bangladesh were expected to pose a threat. But that killer instinct was hugely absent among the Tigers. The century of Shakib Al Hasan had been the only bright spot in a dismal display. While the rest seemed a bit down. Especially, the performance of Bangladesh skipper, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza has been below-par so far.
In this particular tournament, Mash’s bowling has been ordinary.
Mashrafe’s toothless bowling
Not so long ago, Mash’s follow-through used to set up his bowling, but it is noticed, he is not enjoying the same follow through in this tournament. And thus, he is struggling to put the ball on the slot more often and ends up delivering too short and juicy half-volleys. Neither the bowling arm is not in an accurate position like the past nor the seam remains in a very good position.
While delivery, his head is also not remaining in the ideal position. Moreover, he has gained weight, and perhaps, this is not helping him at all. A bowling average of 55.50 in ODIs this year tell us the poor state of Mash.
In the match against South Africa, Mash was very good as a captain despite his ordinary bowling display. Against New Zealand, alongside the toothless bowling display, loopholes in captaincy were evident and the story remained the same at Cardiff.
It was a good toss to win, and a tinge of green on the surface prompted Mash to bowl first. But starting the first over with a spinner is nothing but a poor move by Mash. Even though, Cricviz says, “England struggle against spin early on. They have lost more wickets to spin in Overs 1-5 than any other team since World Cup 2015, at an average of just 14.40. Both Bairstow and Roy prefer pace,” but keeping in mind the life on the wicket, opening with a pacer would have been the ideal move.
Mustafizur Rahman and not Shakib would have been the ideal choice with the new ball.
Fizz did show up to bowl when the ball started to lose its shine, but still at the start, he was extracting enough from the surface. As Cricviz says, “Mustafizur Rahman’s cutters are a distinctive element of his game, and they have already made an impact in CWC 19. So far, 44% of his deliveries have deviated considerably off the surface, the highest percentage for any seamer in the competition”.
Many people are obsessed with the cutters of Fizz, but they do not even realize that he is well-equipped to use the new ball better than any pacers in Bangladesh cricket. From over the wicket, he gets the natural angle to deliver the away swingers with an upright seam and a very good exponent of utilizing tracks with a tinge of green on it.
Bangladesh had to wait for 19.1 overs to break a serene partnership between Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow. And guess what, it was a pacer and not spinner who gave the breakthrough. Meanwhile, Shakib was wasted with the new ball for 7 overs, which left Mash no option to operate his best weapon in the middle overs. England cashed in comfortably.
At one point Mashrafe came back to bowl in middle overs from rough the wicket with no slip. Now, while bowling rough the wicket, automatically the chance for lbw diminishes and if the ploy is to kill the batsman with a different angle – deliveries moving away from the body, then, not engaging a slip does not make any sense.
Even if you don’t wish to operate with a slip, it would be better to keep a short third man rather than keeping him too deep.
Sadly, Mash applied a defensive strategy.
The runs leaked thick and fast as from the first powerplay to over 40, England piled up 176 runs at a brisk pace.
Where is Rubel Hossain?
What could have been the story, if someone like Rubel Hossain was playing! It is still not understood why someone like Saifuddin is preferred so much over a bowler, who is arguably the fastest among the Bangladeshi pacers. Many times, in these middle overs and at the death, Rubel has struck gold. Whereas, Saifuddin and his military medium-pace can hardly make Bangladesh smile. A wicket or two here and there can only justify his selection for the next matches, but when the matter is about creating a sheer impact, Saif is nowhere near Rubel.
The strategy to attack England with spin at Cardiff where there was a chill in the air and life on the surface backfired. Shakib, Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Mosaddek all leaked runs and most importantly Shakib proved costly in the end and went wicketless.
Mash knew what the weather and deck would be and thus his plan should have been to add more firepower to his pace attack. Except for Fizz, he had no options left. Neither Mash nor Saif could pose a threat.
Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir showed how England could be tamed by pace. Perhaps, Mash did not even bother to notice the unique clash at Trent Bridge. Had he studied that game, the strategy for today’s game would have been different.
The pressure is on Mashrafe
Two back to back defeats and automatically, none but Mashrafe Bin Mortaza should feel the pressure. In his illustrious career, many times he has made a comeback.
And this time around, it is a must. He needs to lead from the front and for which, his bowling needs to fetch wickets like the past. Obviously, as a captain, he needs to be more proactive.
It’s time to buck up Mash!