Over the last four years Bangladesh relentlessly tried to bridge the gap with the top teams in the cricketing world. They have made strong strides in the one-day format, although they were more successful at home.
However, among the top teams they got little chance to test their growing fighting skill against record five-time World Cup champions Australia over that period of time. Interestingly, Bangladesh did not play a single one-day match against the mighty Aussies since the last World Cup in 2015 when the group league fixture of the two teams at Brisbane was abandoned without a ball being bowled.
The Tigers’ next one-day fixture against Australia during the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 at the Oval in England was also abandoned as a no-result due to rain. It hurt the Aussies badly because they were only four mandatory overs away from winning the game at a canter.
Australia actually played their last one-day game against the Tigers in April 2011 which they won comprehensively by 66 runs. The long gap had something to do with Australia’s reluctance to accommodate Bangladesh in their profiteering bilateral series roster.
Eight years on, the Tigers will get another opportunity to rub their shoulders against the Aussies at Trent Bridge in Nottingham today. And the buoyant Tigers, on the back of two spectacular wins against South Africa and West Indies, could not think of a more opportune moment to showcase their new-found ability in a World Cup fixture where a last-four slot is on the line for both teams.
Australia will definitely swagger into the match as favourites and the head-to-head record speaks heavily in their favour. Bangladesh have won only once against Australia in their previous 19 meetings.
The Tigers’ fans still cherish that famous win in Cardiff in 2005 against that all-conquering Australian team as one of the finest moments in their sporting history.
But that fabulous seven-wicket win against West Indies last Monday, when the Tigers tore apart a quality pace attack to chase down a massive 321 with plenty of overs to spare, has raised the bar of fans’ expectations. The Tigers’ camp is up for another giant-slaying act.
Can the Tigers win against Australia? Do they have enough firepower to topple a team known to the cricketing world as ruthless professionals who have that uncanny ability to overcome adversity?
Firepower or not, the Tigers’ biggest strength going into the game would be self-belief. Besides, Tigers’ champion all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, who has been enjoying the best form of his life in this World Cup with the bat, rightly said they would no long be intimidated by those 145kph deliveries.
If that was a warning for the famed Australian pace attack, continuity of executing those skills that the Tigers have been demonstrating in the tournament so far would be essential if they are to translate those words into deeds.
Shakib has been performing heavily. But it is also important for opener Soumya Sarkar to make a good star count. Tamim Iqbal got a start in the last game and his role as an anchor would be vital if Bangladesh are to put up a competitive total. The bowling was disciplined in the last game but showed signs of falling apart when under pressure before being rescued by Mustafizur Rahman. Australia are one of the few teams who are masters of exploiting your weakness.
This Australian team are very good but yet to settle into a groove. They looked vulnerable at patches both against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, both teams failed to exploit that.
Sri Lanka squandered a fabulous start. It was also the case with Bangladesh two years ago when they stumbled to 182 all-out despite a magnificent 95 by Tamim in that abandoned Champions Trophy game.
The Tigers might get another chance today. If they can seize that opportunity, the World Cup in all probabilities will get that missing ‘dark horse’.