Afghanistan were no match for Bangladesh, who were ruthless with the ball and cultured with the bat…..
Forget the semi-final berth, forget the finalist tag or even the World Cup glory, it might sound a bit crazy, yet true, that the team standing with the heaviest gains from this mega-event will be the one which was the first one to get knocked out of the competition. Yes, we are talking about the new kids on the cricketing scene – Afghanistan. After showing their mettle against a heavyweight of an Indian side, Afghan superstars failed to replicate those standards against the Tigers from Bangladesh, who thumped them by 62 runs to move closer to England on the points table.
Bangladesh were the favorites heading into the match but nobody could dare to rule out a spirited fight from the Afghans. As it turned out after the game, Afghanistan simply failed to turn up as a team. There were flashes of brilliance but a team needs to perform as one collective unit to stage a coup at the highest levels of cricket. Credit should go to the Bangladesh team in how they approached and executed their plans on a two-paced sluggish track.
After being asked to bat first, Afghanistan had almost similar conditions as there were in the game against India and they employed their Mujeeb card straight away to wrestle advantage from Bangladesh but the Bangla Tigers were always ready to thwart any attempt to seize from the Afghan fighters. Their new opening pair of Litton Das and Tamim Iqbal could only add 23 runs in 4.2 overs but their experienced war-horses, Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim, ensured that the Afghan bowlers couldn’t taste blood at their will.
The 59-run stand for the second wicket paved a solid platform for a 250+ total for Bangladesh which was deemed to be a par score on such a two-paced wicket. Both Tamim and Shakib were faced with similar difficulty in scoring runs as was the case with their Indian counterparts. The strike-rate of 67.92 for Tamim and 73.91 for Shakib screams out the amount of skill and temperament required to bat on a surface which served to the needs of The Afghan bowling attack, in general, and their spin trio, in particular.
If batting conditions were similar to the Indian case, then how did Bangladesh ended up scoring almost 40 runs more than what was managed by the famed Indian batting line-up?
Well, two factors worked for Bangladesh here.
First, the gem of an inning by Mushfiqur Rahim (83 off 87 balls) and the late impetus provided by Mosaddek Hossain (35 off 24). Rahim got out in the penultimate over which pretty much ensured that Bangladesh had at least one well-set batsman who could keep the scorecard ticking even if the likes of Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah went back into the hut at crucial stages of the inning.
A strike-rate of 145 doesn’t stand out in today’s age of ultra-aggressive batting but to manage such a strike-rate on sluggish deck and that too when you are expected to have a go right from your arrival at the crease was nothing short of commendable from Mosaddek whose cameo lifted Bangladesh to 262/7 – an above par score for such a slow surface. Afghanistan had faltered in the chase of 225 against India and it was expected from them that they would take care of their scoring-rate this time around so that they don’t crumble against its ever-rising weight. But that was not to be as all of their top-4 batsmen got starts and none of them could strike better than Gulbadin Naib’s 62.27.
That resulted in mounting scoreboard pressure and by the time Samiullah Shinwari (49 off 51) and Najibullah Zadran (23 off 23) tried to force the issue, the bus to victory had already left the Afghan station courtesy to the spin-web from Shakib. Najibullah’s stumping off the bowling of Shakib served as the culmination of yet another brilliant outing for Shakib (51 runs and 5 wickets for 29 runs) while it highlighted the grave learning curves still remaining to be mastered by the Afghan cricketing minds especially while playing at a stage as big as the world cup.
What this 62-run victory means is that Afghanistan will remain winless at least for some more time while it brings Bangladesh closer to the much-desired (and cherished) semi-final berth.
Bangladesh now have 7 points from as many games and will be required to win their last two fixtures against India and Pakistan if they want to harbor any hopes for a final-four finish. But those all are for some later day because, at the moment, it’s time for some revelry in the Bangladeshi Cricketing circuits as their ‘never-say-die’ attitude continues to breathe down England’s neck.