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Afghan fear comes true for Tigers

  • Published at 05:07 pm June 6th, 2018
  • Last updated at 05:55 pm June 6th, 2018
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Alongside the cricket-crazy fans back home, it should also be extremely hard for the Tigers cricketers to forget the convincing manner in which they conceded the series

Bangladesh's 2-0 series defeat, with a game to spare, in the three-match T20I series against Afghanistan Tuesday at Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium was a disappointment to say the least. 

This is the Tigers’ first bilateral series against Afghanistan, a rising cricketing nation which have found hope and happiness in the recent past after a war-torn past. And the Afghans, a member country of the ICC, ensured of making the occasion a historical one. Suffice to say, they did it in style.

However, as far as Bangladesh are concerned, post mortems are being carried out to find out what went hideously wrong in their outings in Dehradun, India where Afghanistan were designated as the home side. 

Alongside the cricket-crazy fans back home, it should also be extremely hard for the Tigers cricketers to forget the convincing manner in which they conceded the series. They had built up their reputation of being a consistent side after match-winning performances against the top fleet teams in world cricket so it is safe to say that very few saw it coming. 

Since the inception of T20Is, Bangladesh have played 78 times. Whereas Afghanistan, despite being a member country, have played 65 times, winning on 51 occasions. A brilliant outcome from a team which have only recently obtained Test match status. But this should not hide the fact that Bangladesh had gone into the series as favourite.  

Bangladesh headed to the series with a lot of confidence, following their previous international assignment where they played the final of the Nidahas T20I tri-nation series in Colombo, Sri Lanka in March this year. Such was the confidence level that the side's Test and T20I captain Shakib al Hasan, while leaving Dhaka for Dehradun, showed irritation to all the attention that was centred around Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan.

It doesn’t matter how confident the team were, one cannot simply rule out the notion that at the back of their minds, the Bangladesh cricketers were skeptical of a negative outcome against Afghanistan, who hold a wild reputation in the shortest format of the game. And when this series was turned into T20I affair from ODI, the Bangladesh cricketing arena had started calculating the possible negatives from the series. As it were, it did not take long for the negative thoughts to turn into nightmare.

Though it was not mentioned on record, Afghanistan spinners were always a worry for the Bangladesh batsmen. The slow bowling attack, comprising the world's No 1 T20I bowler Rashid, and off-spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi, was the biggest challenge that the Bangladesh batsmen had to overcome. 

The Tigers however, failed as the fear factor got the better of them. The Bangladesh batsmen in the first two matches struggled miserably against the trio on a low and slow track in Dehradun.

In the first game, the visiting side failed to chase down a target of 168, losing the game by 45 runs. In the second match, the Tigers, despite a good first 10 overs, lost their way in the middle, ending up scoring just 134, and then failed to defend the target. 

In the two games, Rashid picked up seven wickets conceding 35 runs while Nabi bagged four scalps giving away 40 runs. Mujeeb took just one wicket in the two matches but was economical, leaking just 4.37 runs from his quotas of four overs each.

As far as the Tigers’ bowling goes, in the first game the pacers were disastrous. The three pacemen in the shape of Rubel Hossain, Abu Jayed and Abul Hasan had given the game away, conceding 62 in the last four overs, rendering the good effort earlier valueless. 

In the second match, two changes were made in the bowling department, seamer Abu Haider replacing Jayed and Abul making way for an extra batsman in the form of Soumya Sarkar. Soumya wasted the opportunity, struggling his way to three off nine balls, while Haider was spot on with his performance, giving away 14 runs in three overs. The left-arm pacer was denied from bowling the last over in the series-saving game as Rubel gave away 20 runs, including two over boundaries and as many boundaries. 

Conservative captaincy decisions by Shakib also raised quite a few eyebrows, especially his tendency to not trust performing bowlers in different parts of a game. In the first match, part-timer Mahmudullah was exceptional, taking two wickets in an over and conceding just one run. Mahmudullah unsettled the Afghanistan batters in that particular over. 

But to everyone's surprise, the off-spinner was never again brought into the attack in that encounter. Shakib later reasoned that Mahmudullah might have gone for runs if he was given a second over. The explanation was unacceptable to many as it was tough to find logic in it. This strongly brings into attention the term “going with the momentum” and how Bangladesh are accustomed it recently.

In the second game, the decision to rejig the batting line-up was made to ensure only left-handers face Rashid. Another decision gone horribly backfired. Rashid notched four wickets, off which three were left-handers – opener Tamim Iqbal, Soumya, and Shakib himself.