The progress of Bangladesh cricket can be easily highlighted by the fact that until 2015, not a single batsman had scored a ton in ICC’s marquee event, the World Cup.
Since then three batsmen – Mahmudullah, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim – have gone on to accumulate five hundreds, three of which have come in this edition.
Shakib is in the form of his life smashing 425 runs in five innings so far and come Monday, at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, he will be vying to become the first Bangladeshi batsman to breach the 500 run mark in a single edition of the World Cup. But it won’t be a walk in the park considering the Tigers will be up against an Afghanistan side that came close to pulling off an upset against title contenders India on Saturday.
In their previous outing, Bangladesh put up a gritty fight against Australia in pursuit of 382, eventually falling short by 48 runs. It has been the middle order that has been Bangladesh’s strength in ODIs over the last few years. Be it Shakib, Mushfiqur, Mahmudullah or one among the rest, Bangladesh have found capable batsmen stepping up at crucial moments.
Even though Shakib promoted himself to number three since 2018, the middle order (4-7) have been prolific this World Cup as Bangladesh have captured the imagination and hearts of fans across the globe with their exciting brand of cricket.
Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah may not have had blazing campaigns so far but crucial contributions have seen them feature among the best at the quadrennial event. With openers Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar blowing hot and cold, the batsmen that follow them will be vital in turning the tide.
Both sides have faced each other on seven occasions in the 50-over format with Bangladesh prevailing in four. If Afghanistan are to level the numbers, it will be up to their spin twins of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman to produce a stellar display.
Since the 2015 edition of the World Cup, Afghanistan’s spinners have been instrumental to their side’s success translating to a win percentage of 65 when the tweakers pick four wickets or more as compared to 18 percent when they bag fewer than three wickets.
Rashid had led the line with 129 wickets since the 2015 World Cup, only behind Adil Rashid (136) as the most successful spinner in the same phase. Overall, Afghanistan spinners have hit a purple patch since the last World Cup and sit atop the list of dismissals.
Up against a Bangladesh middle order that are comfortable against spin, like most sub-continent cricketing nations, it will be a true test for Rashid, Mujeeb and Mohammad Nabi as they embark on a pursuit of registering what will only be their second win in World Cup matches.