Bangladesh will have the honour of playing their last World Cup game against Pakistan at the prestigious Lord’s Cricket Ground today, but taking some of the gloss off the occasion will be the fact that neither teams have a chance to make it to the semifinals, thus making the match an academic one.
Bangladesh’s loss to India on Tuesday ruled them out of the semifinal race and although Pakistan have a theoretical chance, it is only theoretical. If they bat first and score 400, they will have to win by 316 runs, and lesser first-innings totals would require proportionately outrageous margins of victory for the 1992 champions to get to the semifinals. If they lost the toss and are asked to bowl first, then it is all over as they would have to make Bangladesh’s total in one ball.
Despite the academic nature of the match, Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes insisted that there was a lot to play for, not least the opportunity to do something special in cricket’s most hallowed venue.
“Firstly, Bangladesh versus Pakistan at Lord’s, the beautiful Lord’s... there’s no such thing as a dead rubber,” Rhodes said during the pre-match press conference yesterday. “Both teams are desperate to beat each other. We certainly are. I’m pretty sure they are. They’ve got a lot to play for as well.
“So we’re looking to obviously win. We want to win. We’ve practised well today. We’ve come up with some good plans,” Rhodes said. “When we lost against India, it wasn’t a case of -- it was we were out of the tournament, but we all recognise that there’s one more game to go and one special occasion at Lord’s and a very good, tough team to beat as well. So if we can take the scalp of Pakistan in the World Cup, we’ll be very, very proud of the boys.”
A win could place Bangladesh in fifth position in the 10-team table, which would mean that they have been the best of those teams not playing the semifinals -- and that would certainly be a worthy achievement for a side who were not given much of a chance coming into the World Cup.
There would also be the incentive of continuing their dominance over a team that used to beat them on a regular basis not so long ago. Since the 2015 World Cup, Bangladesh have beaten Pakistan in all four of the ODIs they have played -- a 3-0 whitewash at home and a defeat in a virtual Asia Cup semifinal in Abu Dhabi.
The Tigers would also want to correct some mistakes that they have made against the big teams. The coach identified their bowling performance in the first 20 overs in the match against India as a reason for the 28-run loss, and said that the Pakistan match would be an opportunity to correct course on that front.
“If you look back to that India game, we didn’t turn up for those first 20 overs when we were in the field. That was a bad area for Bangladesh. If we can start the game well against Pakistan, then we don’t have to play catch-up, and that’s what we did against India. There are some other aspects of our game we want to just obviously sustain and try and do what we did against India, which was fight hard, and we played well at times with the bat during that game as well. But that’s the main area. We want to start the game really, really well.”