On the eve of Bangladesh’s opening game against Afghanistan, the curtain-raiser for this World T20, Shakib Al-Hasan liked what he saw on the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium central square. The slow surface promised a good outing for spinners and hence, also for Bangladesh. It was a perfect platform for the hosts, a team with a tradition of producing wily spinners, to avenge their recent Asia Cup loss to Afghanistan.
Shakib said that the team was so confident that there was a strong belief in the dressing room that the Afghanistan could be restricted to a below-100 score. By bowling out Afghanistan for just 72 in a match his side won by nine-wickets, Shakib and Bangladesh had not overestimated their spin strength.
Shakib’s 3/8 and Abdur Razzaq’s 2/20 foxed the Afghanistan batsmen, helping their team register a much-needed and confidence-boosting win — a performance that gave a rousing start to their campaign of hosts of the fifth World T20. The success of any event depends on the performance of the local team. The noisy celebrations by the fanatical supporters meant this was a perfect lung-opener for the much-anticipated event.
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It would be fair to say that nothing went Afghanistan’s way on Sunday. Though, it was the Bangladesh spinners who did most of the damage, it was pacer Mashrafe Mortaza who started it all.
Off the first ball of the match, Afghanistan opener Mohammad Shahzad was sent back to the hut. Big-hitter Shahzad, as always, was a man in a hurry. He quickly took guard as if it was an unnecessary formality. Seconds later, the WorldT20 was off to a flying start. Mortaza was much faster than what Shahzad had expected. After meeting the bat, the ball didn’t get the elevation Shahzad intended and went only as far as Mahmudullah, who completed a tumbling catch after running towards covers from mid-off. The attempted shot over the boundary ropes was the beginning of a big slide.
Bangladesh, ecstatic with this early breakthrough, immediately went on to employ spin to choke Afghanistan out of runs and the match. Shakib came on in the fourth over, not long after Gulbadin Naib had hit two fours against medium-pacer Al-Amin Hossain. He tried to hit Shakib out of the ground but Sabbir Rahman spilled the chance at long-on. Naib’s next shot revealed the Afghanistan batsman’s mind-set on the day.
They would try and hit out of trouble against spin. Naib used the slog-sweep and got a top edge that floated in the air till Rahman made up for his mistake this time around. Next ball, to put Shakib on a hat-trick, Najeeb Tarakai decided to play against the spin and gave an easy catch to Nasir Hossain in the covers.
To complement Shakib’s left arm spin, Bangladesh introduced Mahmudullah and Abdur Razzak, off-spinner and left-arm spinner respectively. The scoring rate dropped and wickets fell. Skipper Mohammed Nabi didn’t spot the arm-ball from Razzak and was trapped in front. Samiullah Shenwari, one of the heroes of that famous win in Fatullah earlier this month, paid the price for staying back to Razzak and fell LBW.
Then, there were two runs out. Both came about as a result of the poor judgement from batsmen struggling to counter Bangladesh’s strength — spin.
Afghanistan were bowled out in just 17.1 overs for 72. They were 36 for four in the sixth over, slightly worse off than their predicament at Fatullah in the Asia Cup against the same opponents. Then, a sixth-wicket partnership of 164 had helped them post 254 and pull off their greatest ODI win yet. But there was no fight back from the Afghans on Sunday. Bangladesh knocked off the runs in 12.1 overs for the loss of just one wicket, not taking the opposition for granted this time around.
For Afghanistan, it was a day that they learnt an important lesson. If they thought that T20 cricket was all about big hits, they were wrong. The game’s shortest format is also about showing patience at the start and keeping wickets in hand for the assault later.