While the other teams, like England, India and Australia are competing for points at the World Test Championship (WTC), there is a feeling that this one-off Test between Bangladesh and Afghanistan is of no consequence in the competition, but nevertheless, it is still an important game for both the sides. While Afghanistan are not part of the WTC, this game will be a perfect preparation for Bangladesh ahead of their two-match series against India in November.
Over the years, Bangladesh have thrived to compete in all formats and have transformed themselves into a dangerous side in limited-overs, and are gradually improving in the longest format as well. They will not be pushovers at home and Afghanistan who are just two Tests old will certainly have their work cut out.
Winning just two of the last 10 series at home is not a great achievement by any stretch of imagination, but for Bangladesh, it is their gradual improvement in Tests that will give them the most satisfaction. Since 2016, they have levelled Test series against England and Australia at home and then completed a 2-0 series whitewash over the West Indies. Bangladesh’s key to victory against these sides was their spinners and for a change, they will turn up against a team whose batsmen fancy themselves against spinners. Afghanistan will take the same route and in a battle of spin v spin, it can come down to which side tackles the turn and bounce of the 22-yards in Chattogram the best.
Bangladesh captain Shakib-Al-Hasan, who comes into this game at the back of an impressive show at the World Cup recently admitted he is not mentally ready to lead the side and would rather focus on his game, which would help the team. He instead wants the mantle of leadership dished out to the younger players. Regardless, Shakib’s role in the team – both as captain and player – cannot be underestimated.
While his batting has always been steady, his bowling took a major dip in 2015, after which we have seen a whole new dimension to it.
In the absence of Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das will open the batting alongside Shadman Islam, who has had made a decent beginning to his Test career. Liton has scored 144 runs at 16 but going by his current form, he is more than capable of doing the job on a makeshift basis.
As far as the spinners are concerned, Bangladesh are spoilt for choices. Along with Shakib, the likes of Taijul Islam, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehidy Hasan and Mahmudullah are also at Bangladesh’s disposal. Shakib, Taijul and Mehidy will mostly make the spin trio. However, they could play two spinners and two pacers, as the track in Chattogram in the past has offered equal assistance to pace and spin, it might be a good idea to play two pacers and two spinners, along with an extra batsman.
As far as Afghanistan is concerned, this will be Rashid Khan’s first assignment as captain. He will look to get off to a winning start, but it will not be an easy task. After taking a beating at the hands of India in the first Test, Rashid redeemed himself in the next game against Ireland, including his maiden five-wicket haul.
With Mohammad Shahzad not in the reckoning anymore, the 17-year old Ibrahim Zadran, who scored runs consistently during Afghanistan A’s tour of Bangladesh in July 2019, can make his Test debut and open the innings with Ihsanullah. However, the middle-order consisting of the experienced Mohammad Nabi, Rahmat Shah and former captain, Asghar Afghan will be the visitors’ powerhouse of batting. 19-year-old leg-spinner Qais Ahmad could also be in line to make his Test debut.