A recipe for Tigers
Well, well, well. Pakistan are finally off the mark. It has taken the former champions two bashings and a close escape to register their first points on the board. Does this team look like going through to the knock-out rounds? Or do these players look anything like their predecessors, who had the character to turn matches on their heads from points of no return?
This current team, led by the under pressure Misbahul Haq, look frustratingly short of both character and spirit. Having won the toss against Zimbabwe yesterday, Pakistan trotted to 14 for 2 in the first powerplay, the lowest in the tournament so far. Against West Indies in the previous match, the score was 25 for 4. This type of batting hardly fits the bill in modern one-day cricket, and only shows how much struggle it has been for the Pakistanis so far. The only good thing about this team is their bowling attack; which despite missing the likes of Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and Junaid Khan, has given the team hope when the batting had left them with little to hope for. The future for this team, at least in this tournament, looks quite bleak.
Meanwhile, in Pool A, Sri Lanka have all but confirmed their quarterfinal berth with three consecutive wins, after an opening match defeat against New Zealand. Even at this early stage, it looks like the first three quarterfinal berths will be grabbed by New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Australia, leaving the fourth spot to a two-way battle between England and Bangladesh.
As a direct consequence of Sri Lanka's nine-wicket victory over England yesterday, Bangladesh will stay at the third position till March 5, when they will meet Scotland. And with a win over Scotland, a team Bangladesh have never lost against in ODIs (3 times the two sides met), will keep them at that position, by the end of that day, unless of course the Australians pound Afghanistan by a massive margin, to get ahead of Bangladesh on net run rate.
Despite the three points in their bag, it must be confessed that the Tigers haven't looked quite convincing so far, not by any stretch of imagination. The overall performance against Sri Lanka, except for some early discipline from the pace bowlers, was appalling. The shoddy fielding and wicket-keeping rubbed on to the bowling at the latter stage as the Lankans posted 332 runs on the board, taking the game away from the Tigers. Even during the 105-run win against Afghanistan, when fielding was less tested, the batting effort left a lot to be desired. It took some late aggression from Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur to get the score to 267, on a pitch which looked tailor-made for 300.
One reckons that sort of timid approach will help their cause little when they take on England and New Zealand, the last two opponents in the group stages, on March 9 and 13 respectively.
Realistically speaking, Bangladesh's best chance at progressing would be a win against the English, who could be vulnerable against spin and have lacked the bite in bowling. So the ideal scenario for the Tigers would be to pack the side with spinners – the wicket at Adelaide Oval will offer some assistance to the spinners -- and take the pace of the ball. If they win the toss, there should not be any qualms about batting first. What they would need to do will be to sort out their batting order first and put the opposition under the cosh right from the word go. Mushfiqur and Shakib will need to bat up the order to maximise the runs. However, if they get to field first, they would need to keep the same discipline they showed in the first two matches, and hope that the fielders don't let the bowlers down once again.