Bangladesh are back at the scene of prior conquests, the stadium nestled in the middle of Sophia Gardens in Cardiff. Now known as the Cardiff Wales Stadium, it is doubtful whether the former Sophia Gardens -- where they shocked Australia in 2005 and defeated New Zealand from a near hopeless position in 2017 -- will have enough inspiration to get them over the line against tournament favourites England in their World Cup match today.
Unlike yesterday, when the Tigers’ practice session was reduced to an indoor one by incessant rain, the weather for the match starting at 10:30am (3:30pm Bangladesh time) is expected to be free from rain interruptions.
Both teams are coming into the match on the back of hard-fought losses. Bangladesh lost by two wickets to New Zealand at The Oval on Wednesday after being all out for a sub-par 244, and England fell 14 runs short of Pakistan’s 348 for eight at Nottingham on Monday.
Other than their positive record at the ground, inspiration can also be drawn from the fact that the Tigers beat England in their last two World Cup games in 2011 and 2015. But it was the second loss that set England on the path to their current position of the team that plays lights-out cricket and aims to score 350-plus each time they walk out to bat.
That brand of cricket will make an interesting contrast to Bangladesh’s. Before their opening match against South Africa, which they won by 21 runs, Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza talked about not chasing England’s example and instead focusing on the brand that brought them success over the last four years. It is one more focused on building partnerships at a good rate, minimising risks with cricketing shots, taking singles rather than relying on big shots throughout the innings, and bowling as a unit to extract wickets through pressure. The bowling held up its end of the bargain against New Zealand, but the batting failed to deliver in all those aspects.
Even so, Mashrafe hinted that there are unlikely to be many changes to the eleven that played at The Oval unless conditions dictate otherwise.
“The plan is to change according to conditions, and I don’t think so much change is going to help the team much,” he said at the pre-match press conference. “But it depends, if it keep raining like this, we have to think about it. If not, then obviously, there is the management, as well. They will think about it. If someone will come with different plans, we will think about it.”
England skipper Eoin Morgan talked about the possibility of playing an extra seamer by bringing in Liam Plunkett.
“Obviously another day where the wicket is under the covers, wickets that have been played on here so far have been a bit greener and probably seamer-friendly. So that’s a potential, yeah,” Morgan said.
The same move, bringing in Rubel Hossain, would be a brave one from Bangladesh. It was Rubel who won them the match against England in Adelaide with a four-wicket haul, but playing four seamers -- at the expense of off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz -- would be to ignore that England are weaker against spin. The other change, after Bangladesh’s lower middle order failed to fire against New Zealand, could be to bring in Sabbir Rahman for Mosaddek Hossain at number seven.
However, Mashrafe seems to place value on the part-time off-spin of Mosaddek especially as Mahmudullah Riyad is unable to bowl because of a shoulder injury.
Like against South Africa, and indeed against New Zealand, it may all come down to whether Bangladesh can play their brand of cricket successfully. Even that may not be enough against a rampant England and like Mashrafe said yesterday, with conditions and fan support favouring the hosts, the Tigers will have to be one step ahead and play better than their opposition today.