Sports, Cricket

Bangladesh look to avoid slip-ups

Published : 15 Oct 2021 09:53 PM | Updated : 16 Oct 2021 04:52 PM

Of all the sides consigned to the qualifying "First Round" of the T20 World Cup, Bangladesh arguably have the most reason to feel hard done by. Ranked outside the top eight at the cut-off almost three years ago, recent success in the format has seen them rise to sixth. Despite the tournament being re-seeded Mahmudullah Riyad's side were not granted an automatic berth in the main draw. That said, had the tournament gone ahead as scheduled, they would have faced the daunting prospect of playing the First Round in Australian conditions without the iconic Shakib al Hasan. Against that hypothetical, a trip to the Middle East looks eminently preferable, though they might have preferred to do their qualifying on the low slow decks of the UAE rather than the comparatively fresh and relatively batting-friendly wickets at Muscat. Nonetheless, Bangladesh find themselves in what is generally agreed to be the marginally easier of the two groups, and despite Oman's home advantage, Scotland's momentum and Papua New Guinea's irrepressible penchant for upsets, they have reason to be comparatively confident.

The expansion of the main draw to 12 teams means there's an extra berth on offer in each of the First Round groups, but the margin for error remains slim as even a single loss could leave a team dependent on neutral results and net run rate to get them through. Bangladesh will not be unfamiliar with such considerations, having just scraped past Nepal on net run rate in 2014 after losing to Hong Kong, and while two years later an 8-run win over the Dutch proved enough, things might have turned out very differently had the rain chosen different days to fall.

Based on experience, Bangladesh will thus know how slim the margins can be in the quickfire re-qualifying round, and the sides recent warm-up games have highlighted some of their vulnerabilities. Not least among them is a comparatively callow top order. Tamim Iqbal, who saw them through the 2016 first round almost single-handedly with scores of 83*, 47 and 103* and finished lead run-scorer at that edition, opted out of the tournament to make way for younger players and Bangladesh have since lacked a dependable bat at the top of the order, with neither Mohammad Naim nor Linton Das looking entirely convincing in the role.

Two scores in the 140s against Sri Lanka and Ireland in their warm-up matches underline the limitations of the batting and Bangladesh remain reliant for runs on the worryingly out-of-form Mushfiqur Rahim and skipper Mahmudullah, together with the returning Shakib al Hasan. Though Nurul Hasan has looked dangerous down the order, the capacity for late acceleration is also far from certain. The strength of the bowling alone nonetheless makes them favourites to progress, with a varied seam attack including a stand-out death bowler in Mustafizur Rahman, Shakib providing four overs of world-class spin, and sufficient further slow-bowling options to keep the pressure building if the opposition looks to see him off, there are few obvious bowlers to target in the Bangladesh attack.

Yet coming up against an in-form Scotland side in their opening match, Bangladesh will have to fire from the get-go and though it is the Scots' batting line-up that will most worry the Bangladeshi camp, Oman and even PNG likewise have the capability to take advantage should Bangladesh not find their form with the ball. and in the hosts' case, the bowling to cause them real problems. If Bangladesh arrived in the Middle East confident rather than complacent, the results of the last two days of warm-ups will have set alarm bells ringing. Though they remain the strongest team in Group B, they will have to step up their game if they are to book their flights onward to the UAE rather than back home.

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