PREVIEW: On March 1, 2014, Afghanistan beat Bangladesh by 32 runs in their Asia Cup encounter in Fatullah. Back then, the result was described as an ‘upset’. A ‘shock’. Bangladesh, having been considered ‘minnows’ for ages, were now at the receiving end of losing to a lesser team. Four years later, an Afghanistan win is no longer a surprise, shock, or an upset. Not too long ago, Afghanistan even swept Bangladesh 3-0 in a T20I series in Dehradun, their adopted home. Afghanistan have risen so rapidly that they don’t even celebrate a victory over Sri Lanka, a country that has won the World Cup once and made it to the final twice, as if it’s a massive achievement. Instead, a victory – irrespective of the opposition – is merely what is expected of them. It’s with this backdrop that they meet Bangladesh again on September 20 in Abu Dhabi, in a match that doesn’t matter much as far as the Asia Cup scenarios are concerned given both sides have qualified to the next round.
Both sides are here after defeating Sri Lanka convincingly. Both batted first, put up competitive totals before their bowlers took over. Bangladesh had a slightly tougher game; they were 1 for 2 at one stage (and also lost Tamim Iqbal to an injury) before Mushfiqur Rahim played one of Bangladesh’s best ODI knocks. He scored 144 of 150, and received decent support from Mohammad Mithun (63) as Bangladesh scored 261. Sri Lanka were then shot out for 124 in 35.2 overs, with all bowlers having some fun. Bangladesh will once again look up to Mushfiqur, given they’ve lost Tamim to a fractured wrist he sustained during the first game. Shakib Al Hasan was bowled by Lasith Malinga for a first-ball duck, and he too will have to step up against a potent bowling attack. When Afghanistan swept Bangladesh in the T20Is in June, they did so through their spin attack. Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi are such good bowlers than Afghanistan need only around 220 to 250 to be competitive. That’s precisely what they did against Sri Lanka – get 249 with contributions from multiple batsmen, and then bowl out the opposition for 158. Mujeeb, Rashid, Nabi and pacer Gubadin Naib picked up two wickets apiece. Group B was supposed to be the tougher of the two groups in the six-team tournament, but these two sides ensured the qualification scenarios were sealed even before the third game began. It’s a dead rubber, but it’s also another chance for both sides to show they are as serious contenders for the tournament as the other two sides from the other group.
Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza(capt), Mohammad Mithun, Liton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim, Ariful Haque, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Nazmul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Hider Rony, Nazmul Hossain Shanto, Mominul Haque
Afghanistan: Asghar Afghan(capt), Mohammad Shahzad, Ihsanullah Janat, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Najibullah Zadran, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Aftab Alam, Samiullah Shenwari, Munir Ahmad, Sayed Shirzad, Sharafuddin Ashraf.