‘Spinners have to control the middle overs’

Photo: STAR

Bangladesh have been impressive in the World Cup so far and are still in contention for a semifinal place. However, when a five-day break following a 62-run win over Afghanistan ends, they will be preparing for their toughest challenge. To stay alive in the World Cup, they will have to win against India in Birmingham next Monday, and it should be expected that their frailties will be exposed by the strongest team of the event so far.

While the batting has held up well in each of the six completed matches that the Tigers have played, the main concern surrounds their  bowling as opponentshave run up scores of 300 or more in four of those six matches. A closer look at the numbers suggest that the main weakness is their pace bowling, with each of the three pacers -- skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Mohammad Saifuddin and Mustafizur Rahman -- conceding runs at more than six an over.

In the seam-friendly conditions of England, it is a surprise that the spinners are the ones carrying the bowling effort with all three of Shakib Al Hasan, Mehedi Hasan Miraz and part-timer Mosaddek Hossain being much more economical.

“In these conditions, as you know, it is always challenging for the spinners,” Mehedi, the most economical of the lot, conceding runs at 5.45 runs an over, told reporters in front of their team hotel in Birmingham yesterday. “And if we can win against India, it will be a big gain from the World Cup. The next step will become easier. Spinners -- myself, Shakib bhai, Mosaddek bhai -- will have to play a role in terms of saving runs. Our role is important; we have to be able to control the middle overs.”

While a lot of the talk around a bowling effort surrounds the first 10 overs and the last 10 overs, matches are often won and lost in the middle 30. A comment on the misfiring pacers that Bangladesh have taken two wickets in the first 10 overs only once in six matches, against New Zealand in their second match, but even then it was the left-arm spin of Shakib that dealt the blows.

Shakib, the runaway performer of the World Cup so far, said after the win against Afghanistan that the spinners would benefit from some early wickets. In the matches they have won, they have managed fine without that help from the pacers. They allowed South Africa to score 177 for four in the middle overs during a stiff chase, but the spinners had extracted four wickets. Although the middle 30 cost 211 against West Indies, Bangladesh compensated yet again by taking four wickets that took the sting out of the West Indies charge. Against Afghanistan, Shakib ran riot and the middle overs is what made the difference as Afghanistan scored just 118 runs for the loss of six wickets.

“There are two matches left; it’s not like we should think that we must win the matches. We should instead be in our normal processes,” Mehedi said before boarding a car that would take him, his wife, skipper Mashrafe and his family to a getaway to a Welsh village. “If we stay in the process that we had when we won our last two-three matches, then I think there will be an opportunity. If luck favours us, then Inshallah we will of course do something good.”

The process has been to rely on spin in the middle overs, and that is what will be needed when the team get back to business.