The 136-run loss against Afghanistan may have been in an inconsequential match in the context of the Asia Cup as – rightly or wrongly – the Asian Cricket Council had already decided the group placements beforehand, but the manner of Thursday’s defeat should be concerning for Bangladesh nonetheless because it exposed a lack of depth in the reserves.
But Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza was eager to put Thursday’s 136-run defeat behind them and focus on the important Super Four match on Friday against India.
“I don’t see a reason to be on the back foot. The matches starting tomorrow are all important to stay in the tournament,” Mashrafe said after the match against Afghanistan. “And if, god forbid, something bad happens tomorrow [Friday], there will still be the next two matches to try and stay in the tournament. So we have to be positive. They [India] have won two matches, are the number one team, and they have always been above us, but if we can play our best then it will hopefully be a competitive match.”
On Thursday, Bangladesh were playing without two of their four senior batsmen. Tamim Iqbal was sent home with a fractured left hand, while Mushfiqur Rahim was rested so that he – already hampered by a rib injury -- could be fresh for Friday’s Super Four match against India. In their place, debutant Nazmul Hossain Shanto and Mominul Haque – playing his first ODI in more than three years – came in, but Bangladesh’s lack of batting depth was cruelly exposed by the Afghan bowlers led by leg-spin sensation Rashid Khan.
However, it was not just Rashid Khan or the other spin terror in the teenaged Mujeeb Ur Rahman who did the damage. Pacer Gulbadin Naib took two important wickets, and even part-time leg-spinner Rahmat Shah got in on the act as Bangladesh folded for a paltry 119 in chase of 256.
Pacer Mustafizur Rahman was also rested, and in his absence, Bangladesh leaked 95 runs in the last 9.1 overs after having had Afghanistan 163 for seven in 40.5 overs.
“We wanted to win and I think up to the 40th over we were in good shape. Then they took off. I think we could have done things better, especially starting with me in the bowling lineup,” said Mashrafe, who had a rare off day and was the most expensive bowler, giving away 67 runs from eight overs. “And I obviously did not hope for the batting lineup to collapse the way they did. Overall, they completely outplayed us from the 40th over onwards. We have to improve for tomorrow’s [Friday’s] match so that it doesn’t happen again.”
Mashrafe refused to use the absence of regulars as an excuse for the debacle.
“I don’t think there is any use giving excuses, because those who played today, people know them, they are players of the squad. It was a very disappointing performance today. And tomorrow we have to play against an even more professional team. Even Small mistakes will prove costly. So, we have to concentrate on correcting the mistakes and continue doing what we did right.”
While he kept focusing on letting the momentum slip in the bowling department, he also recognised that the batting was an issue.
“If you talk about batting, it was tough to handle their [Afghanistan’s] bowling. Maybe there was some extra pressure after their total jumped from 160-170 to 250. Especially for the newcomers – Shanto made his debut today. Mominul has also come back into ODIs after a long time. If we could bowl well in the last 10 overs, restricted the total to 210-220, or even under 200, then the batsmen would have had more chance to take their time and play. I think the momentum we let slip while bowling affected the batting, which often happens in cricket. So before the batting, starting with me those who bowled in that time, we should have taken a bit more responsibility.
“But for batting too, there should not be any excuses. They should have batted positively. Maybe they could have taken more time because the runs were coming. They could have settled a bit more and if they preserved wickets in the first 10 overs, we could have progressed a bit further and used the depth in our batting,” Mashrafe added.