At a ground steeped in history, Bangladesh will attempt to create a bit of history of their own by beating Australia for the first time in a World Cup match today in Trent Bridge.
The match is set to begin at 10:30 am (3:30 pm Bangladesh time). While there have been rainy spells over the last few days in Nottingham and the forecast has predicted a chance of rain in the first hour of the match, the rest of the day is supposed to be rain-free.
The Tigers have however been hit by injury concerns as Mohammad Saifuddin, their highest wicket-taker in this edition with nine scalps, may miss this match because of a flare-up of a back issue that he has been carrying since the warm-up match against India on May 28. Mosaddek Hossain, who bats at number seven and also bowls a few overs of off-spin, is also in doubt because of pain in his right shoulder, which he experienced during the seven-wicket win over West Indies on Monday. If they miss out, pacer Rubel Hossain and batsman Sabbir Rahman, neither of whom have featured in this edition so far, will be their likely replacements.
From the beginning of the tournament, it was supposed that India, England and Australia would be the toughest matches for Bangladesh to win. Of the three, historically speaking, a win against Australia is the unlikeliest because in their 20 matches so far, Bangladesh have won just one against Australia -- in Cardiff in 2005, 12 losses and a no-result ago.
The venue itself is a puzzle. In the three World Cup matches here so far Pakistan were bundled out for 105 by West Indies, before the same team scored 348 against England and won by 14 runs and the most recent match saw Australia score 288 against West Indies and win by 15 runs. Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza had placed great importance on assessing the wicket before their superb display against West Indies on Monday in Taunton, and he repeated that need yesterday while speaking of today’s match.
It may be up for debate whether or not today’s pitch will host a run fest, but history strongly suggests that pacers will enjoy the experience more than spinners. James Anderson is the leading wicket-taker here with 16 wickets from just eight matches and the top six are all pacers. And Australia’s Mitchell Starc, with a five-wicket haul against West Indies, is among the pacers who have enjoyed themselves in Nottingham this World Cup. With the likes of Starc and Pat Cummins in the Australia lineup, the Ti-gers have their task cut out for them.
Unlike in their last match against West Indies when Shakib Al Hasan and Liton Das emphatically swatted away the one-dimensional short-ball strategy of the West Indies, the Australian attack will present a challenge that is much more varied. For one thing, Starc is famed for his fast, swinging yorkers at the death and that will be a very different proposition for the Tigers today.
During optional practice yesterday, Bangladesh bowlers were regularly delivering yorkers to the bats-men, perhaps aware of the Starc threat. There will be bouncers aplenty too, but Bangladesh have al-ready been primed for that through three days of practice against the West Indies, and then the match itself.
The Australians, for their part, focused their batting practice on spin, which, in the form of Shakib and Mehedi Hasan Miraz, is Bangladesh’s strong suit, especially against non-Asian teams. After a strong performance against the West Indies that has put their campaign back on track, the team may remain unchanged for today’s match.
Speaking on the eve of the match, Mashrafe was clear about the size of the challenge they would face.
“If Australia are playing at 70 percent, we would need to play at 100 percent,” Mashrafe said. “I don’t think we will be able to win playing around five or 10 percent better; the gap will have to be much big-ger.”
However, having surprised everyone, including perhaps themselves, by chasing down 322 against West Indies with 8.3 overs remaining, the Tigers can take renewed confidence in a mission that, while not impossible, still looks improbable.
“It is all about the mentality; it is a mental game and those who will be mentally fit will have greater chances of succeeding. It will be difficult, but it is not impossible,” Mashrafe said.