The two games in the World Cup so far have already thwarted forecasts of matches basically coming down to a battle pitting bat against bat. Yesterday, West Indies shot Pakistan out for a paltry 105 in Nottingham and the day before, in a blockbuster opener at The Oval, England dismissed South Africa for 207 in just 39.1 overs to win by 105 runs. The two matches are an early indication that regardless of how batting-friendly the pitches in the United Kingdom may be this summer, when bowlers put their hands up -- like Jofra Archer did on the opening day and Oshane Thomas did yesterday -- they will have an impact.
For Bangladesh, who play their World Cup opener against South Africa at The Oval tomorrow, the opening match will have offered some encouragement, especially as the pitch will be the same as the one on which South Africa faltered.
"I think we will be playing on the wicket that was played on yesterday [Thursday], which should be very good for us," Bangladesh bowling coach Courtney Walsh said in a press conference during the team's practice session at the venue yesterday. "At The Oval, you normally get good cricket wickets, good scores. I am anticipating a very good game. The wicket should play well, I expect it may help both departments in terms of a bit of spin, a bit of pace. We saw how it played yesterday, so we have a good idea how it might play on Sunday."
One of the encouraging signs for Bangladesh is that the wicket for the opener took some spin. While Bangladesh do not have specialist wrist-spinners like Imran Tahir of South Africa and England's Adil Rashid, both of whom looked most incisive among the slower bowlers, the Tigers do have highly skilled orthodox spinners in left-armer Shakib Al Hasan and right-arm off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz. The Tigers' specialist spin duo are both adept at bowling arm balls, which do not deviate off the surface, and would have taken note of England off-spinner Moeen Ali troubling the South Africans with a mixture of turners and arm balls.
"It's a couple of days away, it will be a used wicket, so we have to take that into consideration. It's going to be like a four-day old wicket though, so it's not going to be like it was on the first day, so we will have to reassess that. It's still looking a very good wicket," Walsh added.
England skipper Eoin Morgan said after the match on Thursday that it was a slow wicket, and if that persists till Sunday, it will only aid Bangladesh, who are used to playing on slow wickets back home. It will help not just the spinners, but also the well-disguised cutters bowled by left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman, who gave indications of being back to his best in the warm-up game against India on Tuesday.
It is of course not all rosy for Bangladesh. The talk leading up to the warm-up game against India on May 28 was of the positivity surrounding the team after their victorious campaign in the Ireland tri-series had revealed a squad full of potential performers, but the 95-run loss to India left them with injury worries surrounding Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mustafizur Rahman and an unexpected one yesterday when all-important opener Tamim Iqbal walked off net practice after sustaining a blow to his left wrist.
"The guys have practised pretty well in the last couple of games. They played pretty well in the last tournament so the confidence level is pretty high. We just have to go out and enjoy the cricket. I know we lost the last warm-up game, but I am just happy the guys are in a good place, you can see the body language out there, enjoying the practice and the cricket. I am excited for Sunday and hoping that we can get a very good start."