Match-ups in focus as belligerent England aim to maintain perfect start

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26 Oct 2021 | 02:42 PM
authorAnirudh Suresh

Match-ups in focus as belligerent England aim to maintain perfect start

Bangladesh, meanwhile, can ill-afford to go 0-2 down in the Group of Death

What you’re going to read next will blow your mind - guaranteed. Ready? Alright.

Wednesday’s clash in Abu Dhabi will be the first time in Cricket history that England will be taking on Bangladesh in a T20 International.

That is right. Two elite cricketing nations, Test-playing teams who play a ton of bilateral cricket every year, have not met in T20s since the inception of the format.

It is only fair, then, that the first ever T20I meeting between these two nations happens to be a high-stakes contest. 

The importance of Wednesday’s clash cannot be stressed enough. The result of this very encounter will go a long, long way in shaping up Group 1.

With a win, England will edge that much closer to the semi-final spot, particularly after having gotten a mind-boggling NRR boost by beating Windies the way they did. Should the Three Lions lose, however, the group will be busted wide open. Barring Australia and Sri Lanka, every other side would then have suffered at least one loss.

But while England can still afford to lose, Bangladesh simply cannot. They already slipped-up in the crucial ‘four-pointer’ contest against Sri Lanka, and defeat on Wednesday will put them on the verge of elimination. The Tigers pulled off a Houdini Act in Round 1, but the prospect of repeating the same will be paper-thin in a group that is stacked with champion teams.  

These polar opposites have not met before, and in the near future at least, they are unlikely to play a game that will be as significant as this one. 

Can the England left-hand batters replicate Charith Asalanka?

After opting for three seamers in each of their three Round 1 matches, Bangladesh decided to play a third spinner in their first Super 12 encounter against Sri Lanka. Surprisingly, however, the move backfired. And it was all down to how effectively the Lankan left-hand batters nullified the threat of the Tigers’ left-arm spinners. In fact, to be more specific, it was down to how Charith Asalanka demolished his favourable match-up.

In the 15 balls he faced against the left-arm spinners, Asalanka smashed 33 runs, striking three sixes and a four. No denying it came in a small Sharjah ground, but this remarkable display of batsmanship from Asalanka completely nullified the Tigers’ biggest strength. It was a blow from which they could never recover.


Asalanka wagon wheel vs Shakib and Nasum Ahmed

Undeniably hitting sixes will be more difficult in Abu Dhabi, but this LHB vs SLA battle could very well end up deciding who wins the contest. 

The question, though, is: who can be England’s Asalanka?

The most logical answer is, of course, Moeen Ali. Moeen is by some distance the best spin-hitter in the side, and there is no question that he will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing 3 Bangladesh spinners. 

But while Moeen loves to take the spinners on, he also equally gets out to them often. This year he has struck at 150.4 vs the slower bowlers, but averages just 15.62 and has been dismissed once every 10 balls. Bangladesh would not mind conceding a couple of sixes if it means they could get the better of Moeen.

That leaves Dawid Malan and Eoin Morgan, the two other lefties in the English line-up. Malan has struggled against left-arm spinners in 2021, averaging 5.25 while striking at just 63.6, and he is anyway not the kind of batter you would nominate to take down the slower bowlers.

But Morgan is interesting. The England skipper has struggled to buy a run all year in all competitions, but he has somehow managed to excel against left-arm spin. This year, Morgan has struck at nearly 160 vs SLA, while being dismissed just once. 

As someone with a hitting arc not too dissimilar to that of Asalanka, and as someone who can also rotate strike effectively, Morgan could just turn out to be England’s trump card. What remains to be seen is whether he and the management will be brave and smart enough to push him up the order.

Against the Windies, England played the match-up game to perfection and came out on top. Come Wednesday, they might have to do the same again. 

The need for the Bangladesh middle-order to keep its hot run going

For a batting unit that is supposedly ‘slow’, Bangladesh did remarkably well in each of their last two games, posting 171 and 181 while batting first. And given they are a side that likes to defend totals, and will be coming up against England, a team that loves to chase, chances are that they could very well bat first again come Wednesday.

Regardless of whether they bat first or chase, though, the Tigers would need to keep their hot run with the bat going. 

Across the Sri Lanka and PNG games, Bangladesh were simply unstoppable in the second half of their innings. In overs 10-20 (SL and PNG games combined), the Tigers scored 229 runs at a RR of 10.4, bludgeoning every type of bowler. And they did so in their own quirky fashion, hitting a boatload of fours (18 fours compared to 9 sixes).

This was enabled by cameos from their experienced middle-order batters. While against PNG, Mahmudullah struck a 27-ball fifty, the SL encounter saw Mushfiqur Rahim reach the same figure in just 32 balls. 

A similar onslaught might be required if they are to get the better of England. And it is not an entirely impossible task, for the Three Lions are indeed a vulnerable bowling unit, particularly in the back half of games. In 2021, England’s ER of 8.5 in overs 10-20 is the third most expensive among all sides. 

The Windies collapsed terribly, but it is worth remembering that England still only have four out-and-out specialist bowlers, with Moeen and Livingstone required to chip-in as the fifth bowler. There are still vulnerabilities in this English attack which, if the batting side is proactive, can be exploited.

So far in this World Cup, the Bangladesh batters, with every game, have been making strides. Come Wednesday, they will have no choice but to peak. 

Probable XI

Bangladesh: Mohammad Naim, Liton Das, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah (c), Afif Hossain, Nurul Hasan (wk), Mahedi Hasan, Mohammad Saifuddin, Nasum Ahmed , Mustafizur Rahman

England: Jos Buttler (wk), Jason Roy, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan (c), Jonny Bairstow, Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Tymal Mills

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England vs BangladeshICC World Twenty20, 2021EnglandBangladeshShakib Al HasanNasum AhmedMahedi HasanEoin MorganDawid MalanMoeen Ali

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