The Asia Cup heads back to Pakistan on Sunday for the fourth match of what is shaping up to be an interesting tournament when Lahore stages the clash between Afghanistan and Bangladesh, the second in Group B.
Afghanistan make their entrance into the tournament here but for Bangladesh they have to win or else their stay in the competition will be over before we get to the Super Four stage. This should be fiercely competitive.
Having seen all of the other teams in action and assessing the levels required, Afghanistan get the chance to show what they have about them here. You could argue they get a free hit in this match because regardless of what happens they would have a second shot at qualifying when they meet Sri Lanka later in the week, however they can get the job done here and go into that Sri Lanka game with no pressure on them and that is the ideal situation.
The general consensus is that Afghanistan will be at the required level with the ball in this tournament, although the pitches in Pakistan don’t always suit the spinners, however the Afghan tweakers don’t really need too much assistance from the pitch. Their success or otherwise will largely be determined by how they go with the bat and while they have depth to their batting, they will be wanting their top order to set the game up.
It looked like Bangladesh were going to be a little short on paper when you looked down the squad that they named for this tournament and that was how it proved to be in their opening loss against Sri Lanka. To be fair to the Tigers, some really key injuries have come along at the wrong time but even despite that I think they will be disappointed with their batting effort against Sri Lanka. It now means they have no choice but to win this game and given the dent they took on new run rate they could do with winning this well too.
Bangladesh will not need reminding that just two months ago they lost an ODI series to Afghanistan so they are going to need to use that as motivation. If they are going to win this one they will need to bat better than they did in the two matches they lost to Afghanistan, where they posted scores of 169/9 and 189 as well as in the first game of this event where 164 never looked like being enough. If they can bat well their bowlers might get Afghanistan under pressure but the scoreboard needs to be their friend.
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Najibullah Zadran has been out with a knee injury recently but he is expected to return to the side for this one. Karim Janat hasn’t played an ODI since 2017 but he could be set to halt that on Sunday. Rahmat Shah could be included too.
Bangladesh will need to decide whether to risk Mustafizur Rahman, who didn’t look fit at all against Sri Lanka. In what is a must-win game the temptation will be to stick with him but they might get more out of a fitter Hasan Mahmud.
The Gaddafi Stadium is generally a high scoring ground with 10 of the last 12 first innings in ODIs being over 290 and I don’t think that bodes well for Bangladesh who looked very ordinary with the bat in hand against Sri Lanka. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t have been so much of an issue but that was a second string Sri Lanka attack which they faced and that does throw up more than a few concerns. There isn’t really anyone to bring in to improve the situation either given the injuries they have.
That makes me think that Afghanistan could be the ones to be on. They are getting their campaign underway but they have the confidence of having beaten Bangladesh in a recent ODI series and I think their batting is probably deeper which has to be significant. Unless Shakib has a bit of a monster game with the bat and the ball I’m not sure where Bangladesh make enough of a dent into Afghanistan unless the Afghans feel the pressure of expectation. I think there is enough in favour of the underdogs to be on them here.
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