It seemed like the ghosts of Bangladesh's shocking defeat in the first ODI against Sri Lanka in Mirpur on February 17 reappeared at Fatullah last night. Everything was going according to script for the Tigers in the initial stages. They took an extra left-arm spinner in the side to attack the predominantly right-handed batting line-up. They won the toss, chose to field and avoided the dew. They even reduced Afghanistan to 90 for five in 27 overs. It was a dream start, considering that the hosts were playing without three of their major stars and the fact that they had the added pressure of being the favourites.
The next obvious move, as everyone would have expected, was to bring in the best bowlers and go for the kill. But just like in the game against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh yet again let the game go out of bounds. The only difference, the Lankans were eight down for 67.
Yes Afghanistan played some brilliant attacking cricket towards the end in the form of Asghar Stanikzai and Samiullah Shenwari. So much so that it seemed to have stunned the fielders at the death overs. But as good as both these innings were, just like the game against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh's tactics were to be blamed as well.
From the 27th over onwards, when the Afghans were stuttering at 90 for 5, it was part-timers Mominul Haque and Ziaur Rahman who bowled in tandem until the Powerplay was taken in the 35th. While Shohag Gazi getting injured -- he needed four stitches to his hand -- was no doubt a blow and the reason why Mominul bowled his complete quota of ten overs, giving the ball to the likes of Abdur Razzak or Arafat Sunny would have been the more aggressive ploy. Instead, they were kept for the Powerplay and the overs after that. They were the hosts' best bowlers and had nine overs remaining between them at the 27-over mark.
As so often happens in cricket, the batsmen got set and charged the strike bowlers towards the end -- and did so with a lot of power -- and catapulted themselves to a 250-plus score.
A similar strategy was used in the game against Sri Lanka as well, which saw the captain not use Shakib Al Hasan and Arafat Sunny, who had been their best bowlers on the day, until the Powerplay overs.
There are two aspects that were clearly evident from yesterday's game. The first is that the Bangladeshi players are in dire need of a morale boost. Their body language on the field in the last 10 overs, after the Afghans had just begun to swing their bats, reflected the torrid last few games that they had. And the second is that the team's strategies, even with regards to field placement, more often than not lacks a killer instinct which, quite evidently, was the main factor behind the two shocking defeats.