Host Bangladesh will face visiting Zimbabwe in their first ODI of the tri-nation series at Mirpur Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka Monday. The day-night match begins at 12pm.
This is the Tigers’ first international fixture in the year 2018 and the challenge will be a competitive one for the home side.
Bangladesh have a good home record in the last three years, thanks to series wins over South Africa, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan while the Tigers also ran England close.
But the challenge will be slightly different this time around in that they will be playing their first series since previous head coach Chandika Hathurusingha’s resignation.
The BCB appointed the experienced Khaled Mahmud as the technical director. Mahmud was the team manager during Hathurusingha’s regime. Bangladesh have plenty of experience in the coaching staff as West Indian great Courtney Walsh is currently the pace bowling coach.
Interestingly, Zimbabwe head coach Heath Streak is the former pace bowling coach of Bangladesh so the ODI series has turned into a battle of the former colleagues.
Bangladesh ODI captain Mashrafe bin Mortaza admitted that every team are well aware of the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses. But the Tigers skipper believes the team who can execute their plans better in the field on a particular day will emerge victorious.
“A very interesting tournament is going to start [Monday]. It is a good opportunity for us, and if we can perform to our potential, something good is awaiting us. We want to win, and win well. But it won’t be easy. Zimbabwe have done well in the recent past, beating Sri Lanka. Even the Sri Lankans won a game in India, and they are a good side,” Mashrafe said during the pre-match press conference in Mirpur Sunday.
“We didn’t get what we wanted from our last tour but I am hopeful that we will be able to execute better this time.
“They are supposed to have ideas about our entire squad. Streak left nearly two years ago while Hathurusingha was there in our last series. We also know what they might plan against us. We are more focused on bringing at least 70-80% of our plan to fruition,” he added.
Weather is a concern for today’s match as the sun did not shine yesterday due to fog. But Mashrafe said Bangladesh are focused on executing their plans, rather than concentrating on weather or condition.
“Ahead of this tournament, we have to focus more on how to execute without taking too much pressure, and not thinking about weather and condition. It is quite foggy, which will make catching a bit difficult. But we have been training the last few days, at times under lights,” said Mashrafe.
“We are in a bit of doubt whether to bat or bowl first. It would depend on the fog situation on a particular day. I don’t think the toss will have a big say, and even if it does, we have the players with the ability to reduce the difference,” he added.
Bangladesh’s first challenge will be Zimbabwe, who have been a familiar foe to the Tigers on the cricket field for many years now. Zimbabwe have a good team comprised of experience and youth and they can pose strong competition to the opposition. Their former skipper Brendan Taylor has returned to the national set-up after his Kolpak stint. Inclusion of Taylor has certainly bolstered Zimbabwe’s middle-order.
Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer admitted that Bangladesh are a difficult opponent in their home condition but believes they are well prepared this time.
“It is sometimes a tough place to tour, Bangladesh. They play so well in their home condition. We feel we have got a team of youth and experience. Guys have played here long enough. We know the Bangladesh players better. We will take confidence from the Sri Lanka series. I think we are better equipped this time around,” Cremer said during their arrival presser Saturday.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The prolific left-hander will be key for Bangladesh at the top of the batting order as the Tigers will get a new opening pair in the form of Tamim and right-hander Anamul Haque. Left-hander Soumya Sarkar is out of the squad and Anamul has just returned to the national set-up after two years. So the team will look for a good start from one of their best batsmen. Tamim had a good BPL 5 in terms of scoring runs and the opener will definitely start the new year with some confidence.
Shakib al Hasan
Shakib had a brilliant year in 2017 across all three formats. But the new series brings a new challenge for him. The weather and cold and foggy condition might help the pacers at the middle but Shakib’s left-arm spin can be very useful on a relatively slow pitch like Dhaka’s Mirpur Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium. Besides that, according to a Bangladesh team source, Shakib will bat at No 3 in the batting order, which is a crucial position. Bangladesh are yet to find a proper No 3 batsman in the last few years and now Shakib has stepped up to this key batting position.
The experienced middle-order batsman returned to the Zimbabwe side after his Kolpak stint. Taylor retired after the 2015 World Cup and later played for Nottinghamshire for the last couple of years. But he was re-contracted in September, 2017. The right-hander has played 167 ODIs for Zimbabwe, scoring 5258 runs. He has a good record against Bangladesh both at home and away and will be a crucial figure in the Zimbabwe middle-order.
Raza played well in the recently concluded BPL 5 for Chittagong Vikings. The right-hander can be handy both the bat and with his off-spinners. Among all the Zimbabwean players who took part in BPL 5, Raza played the maximum number of matches for his franchise and performed very well. So after playing a month-long tournament in Bangladesh, Raza knows the condition and pitch pretty well and can be very useful for his team against host Bangladesh in today’s tournament opener.
Head to head
ODIs played - 67
Wins - 39 (Bangladesh) and 28 (Zimbabwe)
Losses - 28 (Bangladesh) and 39 (Zimbabwe)
Win % - 58.2 (Bangladesh) and 41.79 (Zimbabwe)
Most runs - Shakib al Hasan (Bangladesh, 1316) and Brendan Taylor (Zimbabwe, 1198)
Highest score - Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh, 154) and Charles Coventry (Zimbabwe, 194*)
Most wickets - Shakib (68) and Ray Price (Zimbabwe, 35)
Best bowling - Abdur Razzak (Bangladesh, 5/29) and Bryan Strang (Zimbabwe, 6/20)