Tigers face uphill climb in opener
The two sides squaring off today in the Champions Trophy opener at The Oval in London will be out to prove different points. Qualifying for the eight-team ICC showpiece event is in itself a minor triumph for Bangladesh, but an ambitious side that has gone from strength to strength in the last two years will be eager to leave their previous modus operandi in the tournament behind.
Before the tournament became an eight-team event in 2009, Bangladesh's participation was all about making up the numbers -- a team that had no chances of making a dent but one that was there because they were a Full Member. When they take the field today at 3:30pm (Bangladesh time) against the home favourites, it will be to live up to their billing as the sixth-best side to the cricketing world.
For England, the inventors of the game who have never won an ICC 50-over event, sights will be set slightly higher. The last time they met Bangladesh in a world event, the Tigers had knocked out the Lions in a thrilling 2015 World Cup group game in Adelaide, and since then England have been on a journey of rejuvenation that has seen them eschew their traditionally conservative outlook in favour of a high-octane style. It has paid dividends as they have been a dominant side at home since Adelaide 2015, and they will seek to bring that journey to fruition by winning that elusive trophy.
Before that, they must slay the team that pushed them off the stage just over two years ago. As far as head-to-head stats go, Bangladesh are on a hiding to nothing. England have won 15 of the 19 contests between the teams so far and in terms of personnel and suitability in the prevailing conditions, England are far ahead, as was admitted by Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza himself. Bangladesh will be counting on the pressure England will feel as home favourites and also the added pressure of getting off to a winning start in the proverbial group of death that also features two-time champions Australia and one-time champions New Zealand.
Therefore, England will go into the first match of their home tournament as overwhelming favourites, and how they deal with those expectations might be an omen of things to come.
Both sides are also coming off terrible last matches. England were reduced to 20 for six in their last ODI against South Africa on Monday and Bangladesh were shot out for just 84 in their final warm-up the following day.
England will be bolstered by the returns of Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes, while Bangladesh will be similarly fortified by the return of skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and Tamim Iqbal, both of whom sat out the India warm-up debacle. Fast bowler Rubel Hossain is also likely to retain his place at the expense of the off-colour Taskin Ahmed.
The weather forecast is for a fine day in London, and it will be up to the teams to overcome the pressure and recent memories to put their best foot forward.