Just a few miles from the Bangladesh team hotel in Southampton, the World Cup’s lowest-ranked team was giving the overwhelming favourites a hard time at the Rose Bowl. With the 2019 World Cup so far being anything but straightforward for the Tigers, that Afghanistan -- the one opponent they are overwhelming favourites against -- is finding form two days before playing Bangladesh seems to fit the narrative well.
When Mohammad Mithun was talking to reporters in front of the team hotel before boarding the bus to go to Hampshire’s Rose Bowl for optional practice at 1:00pm yesterday, India were 86 for two after 20 overs -- a far cry from where they would have expected to be at that stage against Afghanistan.
“I think we have to be more careful, because to a certain extent, you will accept a loss against Australia, because they are above us as a team,” Mithun said when asked whether, after playing against the big teams in their five completed matches so far, a match against Afghanistan offered a chance to relax or if Bangladesh needed to be on their guard.
“But if we lose to Afghanistan…” Mithun laughed nervously. “Everyone is expecting that we will win. Every match is the same in that we play to win. But I think we should be more careful in this game.”
One of the warning signs ahead of tomorrow’s game at the same venue is that the pitch against India -- who were held to a surprisingly low score of 224 for eight -- was that the wicket offered a fair bit of spin. Afghanistan’s two best spinners -- leg-spinner Rashid Khan and off-spinner Mujeeb ur Rahman -- have enjoyed quite a bit of success against Bangladesh. In five matches, Rashid has picked up 10 wickets against Bangladesh at an average of 17 and, as importantly, an economy rate of 3.38 runs per over. Mujeeb, meanwhile has picked up three wickets from two matches against the Tigers, but his economy rate has been even more impressive as he conceded just 3.13 runs per over.
Against India, perhaps the strongest players of spin in the world, both players starred yesterday. Rashid picked up one wicket for 38 runs from 10 overs, while Mujeeb was miserly with figures of one for 26 from his 10.
Another off-spinner who has enjoyed success against Bangladesh, Mohammad Nabi, excelled yesterday with figures of two for 33 from 10 overs, including the prize wicket of Virat Kohli.
Mithun however was confident, despite Bangladesh having to now prepare for spin after facing trials of pace in matches against South Africa, New Zealand, England, West Indies and Australia.
“Bangladesh always play spin well, although they have some world-class spinners. Actually, when you are in a good batting rhythm, then I don’t think there is much problem with adjusting between pace and spin. Batting is all about confidence; if someone is in a good state mentally, he can adjust to anything.”