Eager to keep their semi-final hopes alive, a desperate Bangladesh will have their work cut out when they take on a spirited Afghanistan in a do-or-die World Cup encounter in Southampton on Monday.
England’s defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka on Friday breathed air into Bangladesh’s hopes of securing a semi-final berth and the ‘Tigers’ will be keen on making the most of the situation starting with a win over the bottom-placed Afghanistan.
The Mashrafe Mortaza-led side, which is currently placed at sixth spot with five points, has batted pretty well so far in the tournament.
After hunting down a target of 322 against the West Indies in just 41.3 overs, Bangladesh fought admirably in a 382-run chase against Australia, finishing with an impressive 333/8.
The promotion of Shakib Al Hasan up the order has been one of the highlights of the World Cup. The all-rounder is just 22 runs behind Australia’s David Warner, who is the tournament top scorer.
The bowling, however, is their undoing, as Bangladesh have conceded scores in excess of 320 in each of their last three completed games and the bowlers will have to step up to make life easier for their batsmen.
On the other hand, Afghanistan, still in search of victory in the tournament, will be drawing a lot of positives from their previous game against India.
The Afghans fell agonisingly short of India’s target, losing by 11 runs on Saturday. But the team will take a lot of confidence from the fact that they restricted the famed Indian batting unit to 224 for 8.
Given their experience of the conditions in Southampton, captain Gulbadin Naib will expect his spinners to weave their magic once again against an in-form Bangladesh batting line-up on Monday.
The weather is expected to be warm. The dryness of the pitch is expected to bring spin into play, much like it did during the game between India and Afghanistan.
The Afghan batsmen though, will have to focus on staying at the crease for longer periods to get the desired result. Against England, they played out 50 overs for the first time in the tournament.
“We lost badly in the first half of the tournament, but we have played some good cricket in the second half and I am happy with the way the team has performed. This is tough cricket against high-ranking teams, and you have to fight your best,” Gulbadin Naib said after the loss to India.