Bangladesh notched only their second T20I win over Afghanistan in six encounters with a four-wicket victory in the final league game of the T20I tri-series on Saturday. The Tigers will now face the same opponents in the final on Tuesday in Mirpur.
The Chattogram leg of the series finished on a high for the hosts as the Tigers were finally able to break a four-game losing streak against Rashid Khan’s side. The team landed yesterday in Dhaka in good spirits with a much-needed gain in momentum after a dismal defeat in the one-off Test against Afghanistan earlier this month, which was followed by defeat against the same opposition in their first league match in Mirpur.
“Since we lost the Test against them in Chattogram and also [the T20I] in Mirpur, as we needed some confidence before the final and also [needed to sort out] our combination, winning this match gives us some advantage,” pace-bowling all-rounder Mohammad Saifuddin told reporters at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport yesterday.
Another manifestation of nerves being settled was that the selectors named an unchanged squad for the final after Bangladesh won both their matches in Chattogram. After they lost the match against Afghanistan in Mirpur, the selectors had rung in as many as five changes.
Saifuddin admitted that the visitors have enjoyed a mental advantage in this format of late, having won all four matches since 2014.
“It was 4-1 [in favour of Afghanistan] maybe. We know that they play in various places in T20s and some of them are experienced. But we have experienced players as well, so since there were two more matches against them [before Saturday’s game], we had the opportunity and it’s 4-2 now. If we can win [the final], we can [further] reduce the margin.”
Despite the two wins in Chattogram, the other being against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh will have their work cut out and a few deficiencies to resolve against a side ranked three places higher. The batting has been an issue with the top order yet to click in this series. Mushfiqur Rahim, arguably Bangladesh’s best batsman in the format, has gotten a few starts without really making his presence felt. The Tigers also have a habit of losing a flurry of wickets that makes an easy task look hard.
In the last match against Afghanistan, skipper Shakib Al Hasan scored more than half the team’s runs with an unbeaten 70 while the rest contributed 63 during the chase of a meagre 138.
“We are talking about our shortcomings; our coach and captain have talked about those. Even if we can’t give our hundred per cent, if each of us are able to contribute 60-70 per cent, we can match them and we proved that yesterday,” Saifuddin added.
Afghanistan captain Rashid meanwhile was doubtful for the final, having suffered a hamstring injury during Saturday’s match. The leg-spinner has been a thorn in Bangladesh’s side and his absence will likely give the home side an advantage. The smallest margins will matter and false decisions in crucial stages can be disastrous in the shortest format when facing a side that had set the record for the highest number of T20 wins on the trot just last week.