The fickle weather in Bristol allowed the embattled Bangladesh team some respite in the morning yesterday, with the sun breaking through the grey clouds during an uninterrupted practice session at the County Ground. As forecast, the clouds gathered and unloaded at 2:00 pm, cutting Sri Lanka's practice session short on the eve of the teams' World Cup match here today. The forecast for today is not promising, with there being a chance of rain throughout the day, and a washout would harm the higher-ranked Bangladesh -- with one win from three matches -- more.
It seems that at best the match will be a curtailed-overs affair and the Tigers were preparing for that eventuality. A shorter match would mean that runs have to be scored faster and big hits then become the need of the hour, and that is what Bangladesh's middle-order batsmen were doing.
The Bristol County Ground is similar in dimensions to the Cardiff Wales Stadium, where Bangladesh lost to hosts England by 106 runs on Saturday. The square boundaries are much bigger than the straight ones and the latter ones were the areas of focus for the batsmen honing their radars in the three nets in the middle.
Mahmudullah Riyad, the batsman who has transformed himself into a six-hitting finisher at number six, has had a rough time in the second and third matches -- getting off to slow starts and being dismissed in a bid to accelerate. He was hitting some of the biggest sixes not just straight down the ground against spinners but also square on the leg side against pacers. At one stage he unveiled the switch hit against a spinner. The right-hander did make a connection, but it was hard to tell whether it would have had the wings to beat a sweeper cover in a match situation.
In the adjoining nets, Mushfiqur Rahim -- expected to bat at number four -- was hitting long balls straight down the ground and over the sightscreen with regularity. Mehedi Hasan Miraz was between the two middle order lynchpins and not doing badly by comparison. Sabbir Rahman -- yet to play a match but someone who may come into consideration if the match is substantially shortened -- replaced Mushfiqur and hit a few big ones straight down the ground, as did Mohammad Saifuddin, who replaced Mahmudullah.
The focus was clear -- rain would be a crucial factor in today's game and the middle order, which has blown hot and cold till now, will have to step up and hit out to ward off not the rain threat, but the threat rain may pose to their chances in the tournament.