A win or loss in a practice match is not as important as taking on board what it says about the team in its current state. Therefore, it is not cause for hand-wringing that Bangladesh conceded 359 for seven after at one stage having India on 88 for three in 20 overs with Virat Kohli back in the hut in their final World Cup warm-up at the Swalec Stadium in Cardiff yesterday. By the same token, if Bangladesh had gotten their mighty neighbours all out for 160, there should not have been wild celebrations.
With Bangladesh set to open their World Cup campaign at The Oval against South Africa on June 2, and with the wickets across the event expected to be flat batting tracks, there were lessons to be taken from their bowling performance yesterday.
Fizz an asset with the new ball
Mustafizur Rahman has not often been given the new ball as he is more valued for his slower cutters that prove economical in the middle overs and incisive in the death overs. However, he made a strong case for being Bangladesh’s go-to opening bowler in the World Cup. There will always be movement on offer with the new ball in the United Kingdom and in the early exchanges Mustafizur flummoxed Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan, who he dismissed. He was consistently the fastest bowler for Bangladesh and extracted swing, both in and out. In partnership with skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza -- Bangladesh’s most consistent and wily new-ball operator -- Mustafizur produced Bangladesh’s best passage of play as they kept the vaunted Indian top order to just 33 for one in the Powerplay overs. If Bangladesh can sort the middle overs out, splitting Mustafizur’s 10 overs between the first and last 10 overs -- thereby ensuring that he can come back bowling as fast as he did when he started -- may be a winning ploy.
More meaningful aggression needed
After Dhawan’s wicket and the lack of runs, the pressure was on India, so a second slip could have been employed for Kohli, who reaches for deliveries early on. In the fifth over, there was a wide slip and Kohli chased a Mustafizur away swinger, only for the edge to fly between keeper Mushfiqur -- who should have at least attempted the take -- and Soumya Sarkar at slip. The horse having bolted, Mashrafe then brought in a second slip.
To be fair, he did try to keep up the pressure when KL Rahul was the new man in as there were seven fielders inside the circle when the rules demanded just five, and the same was the case when MS Dhoni entered in the 23rd over. However, when facing the truly big teams, aggression often means recognising the rare moments that the opposition are faltering and sticking the knife in. It may well have been different had Kohli been dismissed early and Rahul exposed to the new ball.
It was quite obvious that Mashrafe and the team management wanted to give the five pacers in the squad a fair run yesterday as Mashrafe, Mustafizur, Rubel Hossain, Mohammad Saifuddin and Abu Jayed delivered the first 24 overs before Shakib Al Hasan was brought on. All four spinners tried yesterday -- specialists Shakib and Mehedi Hasan Miraz, and part-timers Mosaddek Hossain and Sabbir Rahman -- copped a fair bit of stick. While that should not be cause for panic as India are one of the best teams against spin, it should raise the question of whether -- when not playing subcontinental teams -- Bangladesh should go in with four pacers.
In that regard, going by yesterday’s performance, Jayed may be the one to miss out as he seemed completely ineffective if the ball is not swinging, which it will likely not if Mustafizur is given the new ball and Jayed bowls in the middle overs. The four other pacers, however, gave a good account of themselves and that may mean that Mehedi or Rubel/Saifuddin will be rotated in and out depending on the opposition and conditions.