Both Bangladesh and Afghanistan come into this crucial Super Four match having lost their previous contests. But it is anyone’s guess which side would be more confident. Bangladesh have had it rough in their last two games, particularly their batsmen who have performed poorly as a collective.
Afghanistan have played impressive cricket in the Asia Cup so far, although the loss to Pakistan will take time to heal. They will hope for a better start from Mohammad Shahzad and Ihsanullah in the first Powerplay. Their middle order has mostly done the job of steadying the ship and setting a platform for the last 10 overs, in which Afghanistan have now scored 97 and 87 runs in their last two matches, against Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Hashmatullah Shahidi has been their batting ace, scoring 192 runs in three innings, but none of the others have been as consistent. Rahmat Shah made 72 against Sri Lanka while Asghar Afghan struck 67 against Pakistan.
Their three main spinners, however, have been outstanding, none of them conceding more than 3.50 runs per over. Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s accuracy and variation with the new ball is backed up by the experienced Mohammad Nabi before their star bowler, the legspinner Rashid Khan, rips into the middle orders. Perhaps at times captain Afghan can bring Rashid into the attack slightly earlier, especially if teams get off to good starts.
Bangladesh haven’t had it so easy. Tamim Iqbal’s injury-enforced absence has unsettled the top order. The lack of form of the younger batsmen such as Liton Das, Nazmul Hossain Shanto and Mosaddek Hossain has led the selectors to add Soumya Sarkar and Imrul Kayes to the squad. Whether this will relieve the pressure on the three main batsmen – Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah – remains to be seen.
Both teams are in the same situation, effectively, as far as the tournament goes, but at the moment Afghanistan look clear favourites, their spinners itching to go at an under-pressure batting line-up that has failed to cross 200 in successive games.
Afghanistan: LWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
It is important for Bangladesh that Mashrafe Mortaza get back into the groove. He hasn’t been his usual self in their last two games, conceding 7.46 per over and only taking one wicket.
Mohammad Nabi has been miserly with the ball but a little off-colour with the bat in this Asia Cup, only scoring 32 runs in three innings.
Afghanistan are unlikely to tinker with their top six but they may want to ponder the make-up of their pace attack.
Afghanistan (probable): 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Ihsanullah, 3 Rahmat Shah, 4 Asghar Afghan (capt), 5 Hashmatullah Shahidi, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Najibullah Zadran, 8 Gulbadin Naib, 9 Rashid Khan, 10 Aftab Alam, 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Having failed to cross 200 in successive innings, Bangladesh could make changes to their top order, with Soumya Sarkar and Imrul Kayes now also in the mix.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Liton Das, 2 Nazmul Hossain Shanto, 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Mohammad Mithun, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Mosaddek Hossain, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 9 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Pitch and conditions
Abu Dhabi remains a “bat first, score 250-plus” ground, although Pakistan did chase down Afghanistan’s 257 in the last game here. The weather remains hot and dry, with a low of 32 degrees.
Stats and trivia
Bangladesh have lost the last 11 ODIs they have played without Tamim Iqbal.
Hashmatullah Shahidi, while making 97* against Pakistan, became the second Afghanistan batsman to be unbeaten in the nineties in ODIs.
“We have had collapses in two successive matches. It does make the dressing-room worried when we lose two early wickets. We managed to recover in the first game but we faced world-class bowlers against Afghanistan and India. We have to ensure more partnerships so that we don’t go out of the contest before the first 30 overs.”
Mashrafe Mortaza, the Bangladesh captain