ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP 2019
Bangladesh have to win all their three remaining games to keep themselves in the hunt for a place in the semifinals © Getty
Twice in this World Cup, Afghanistan have manoeuvred themselves into a winning position. In Cardiff, against Sri Lanka, they were in pursuit of a manageable chase of just 201. On Saturday, against India in Southampton, they were 166-5 needing 47 more runs. Both times they lost. Both times they couldn’t quite finish the job. Both times they probably should have done. Their World Cup campaign could be in a vastly different place if they had held their nerve.
As it is, they are without a win from six matches and face an in-form Bangladesh team at the Hampshire Bowl on Monday who still have faint hopes of qualification for the knock-out stages. Mashrafe Mortaza’s men have lost to New Zealand, England and Australia but have beaten West Indies and South Africa. If they win their remaining three games, they can get to eleven points and that *might* be enough to see them through.
Like Afghanistan, however, Bangladesh also lost their last game. Australia’s 381-5 at Trent Bridge proved too much to chase down although the Bangladeshis made a fist of things with 333 in reply. It was, despite the defeat, another strong showing, another impressive rebuttal to the notion they are anybody’s whipping boys. They have been one of the best aspects of this tournament so far.
The most recent meetings between the two sides should give Afghanistan belief, however. In two games in last year’s Asia Cup, they beat Bangladesh by 136 runs in the group stage and then lost, agonisingly, by three runs in the Super Fours.
Unsurprisingly, those games, held in the UAE, were dominated by spin and the slow bowlers may well be a key feature in Southampton too given the game will be played on the same surface which hosted the match between India and Afghanistan. In Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, the Afghans will certainly bowl at least 30 overs of spin and there is the part-time stuff of Rahmat Shah too. Bangladesh will probably throw all their spinners into the mix too.
The match-up between Khan and Shakib Al Hasan should be fascinating. Bangladesh’s number three has 425 runs in the tournament and has been one of the standout players while Rashid, who has not been at his very best, kept India’s powerhouse batting line-up to less than four runs an over on Saturday and removed MS Dhoni. It suggested he was getting things back on track.
He can also draw inspiration from the performance of Nabi against Virat Kohli’s men. Similarly quiet so far in this World Cup, he almost hauled his team across the line with a fine innings. He also bowled smartly. It was no coincidence that when Nabi and Rashid put on their best shows of the tournament, Afghanistan came closest to winning. If they and the rest of their teammates can give a similar performance to the one they managed against India, a second ever World Cup victory might be on the cards.
When: Monday June 24, 2019. 10.30am Local Time
Where:Hampshire Bowl, Southampton.
What to expect: The Southampton surfaces have been slower than many thought they might be and the pitch for this game is expected to offer similar challenges for batsmen given it has been used before. The spinners will be happy though, and when you also consider the big boundaries, a high-scoring game could be unlikely. Unfortunately, some rain is forecast for the the afternoon which could curtail play although there should still be time to get a result.
After leaving him out against Australia, Bangladesh may consider bringing back Mosaddek Hossain to add another spin bowling option to their line-up. Mohammad Saifuddin, who has nine wickets in this World Cup, could also come back into contention after Rubel Hossain’s rusty first showing in the tournament against Aaron Finch’s men. He conceded 83 runs from his nine overs in Nottingham.
Possible XI: Soumya Sarkar, Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Liton Das, Mahmadullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Rubel Hossain/Mohammad Saifuddin, Mushrafe Mortaza, Mustafizur Rahman,
Frankly, who knows what the Afghans might do with their team. They have made some strange changes throughout this tournament. Leaving our Mujeeb Ur Rahman against New Zealand was one, for example. Perhaps they might opt for an unchanged team in an attempt to repeat their good showing against India.
Possible XI: Hazratullah Zazai, Gulbadin Naib, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Ikram Alikhil, Aftab Alam, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.