Bangladesh eye opener as confidence-booster
Canberra's streets are so quiet even during the day, you wonder when you might next spot some life around, forget coming to know that there is a World Cup in town. That will change next afternoon, when Bangladesh take on Afghanistan in both teams' tournament opener. Like all the four major South Asian teams, Bangladesh have plenty of support in Australia, particularly around Sydney, from where a lot of fans are expected to make the drive to Canberra.
Mashrafe Mortaza was optimistic of receiving backing from the stands during the match, but Bangladesh's form in the warm-ups has not generated the same confidence. The loss to Pakistan, albeit close, was not unexpected but the defeat to Ireland would have hurt. Bangladesh have trained hard post those losses, and Mortaza appreciated the efforts put in by his players.
The onus has to be on Bangladesh here, given they are the Full Member side with nearly 15 years of Test history. However, Afghanistan beat Bangladesh the only time they met them in the ODI format in the Asia Cup last March, and have taken down Zimbabwe twice in four meetings. The fact that all those three wins came at the home of the opposition is revealing too, and Afghanistan believe Australian conditions suit them better.
Ireland chasing 300-plus against West Indies in Nelson has already set an early standard for Associates in this World Cup, and not only Afghanistan, but Bangladesh are also taking that result as an inspiration. They know how hard it is going to be for them to beat two of Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia and England, which is why they cannot afford another slip-up against Afghanistan.
(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
The Afghanistan fast bowlers are tall and quick. The usually short Bangladesh batsmen will have to handle the extra bounce, something they are not used to at home and something they have been working on in the nets. The likes of Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim have the strokes, but it will be a matter of getting in first.
Tamim Iqbal made 81 against Pakistan in the warm-up game but he has been feeling his way back from knee surgery. He has not been extending himself during training. He does not have any major worries, and even if there is a niggle or two, Mortaza said his experienced opener was mentally strong enough to do his job well.
Bangladesh's four fast bowlers skipped optional training on Tuesday, as did left-arm spinner Taijul Islam. The batsmen, however, had a hit. Mominul Haque provides them a solid option in the top order but he has not clicked in the warm-ups. Soumya Sarkar can bat up the order and provides a few overs of seam-up too.
Bangladesh: (probable) 1 Anamul Haque, 2 Tamim Iqbal, 3 Soumya Sarkar, 4 Mahmudullah, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk) , 7 Sabbir Rahman/Nasir Hossain, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 9 Taijul Islam, 10 Taskin Ahmed, 11 Rubel Hossain
Afghanistan chose to train under lights late in the evening before the match. Fast bowler Shapoor Zadran had a knee niggle but was expected to be fine to play.
Afghanistan (probable): 1 Javed Ahmadi, 2 Usman Ghani, 3, Asghar Stanikzai, 4 Najibullah Zadran, 5 Samiullah Shenwari, 6 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 7 Afsar Zazai (wk), 8 Gulbadin Naib/Mirwais Ashraf , 9 Dawlat Zadran, 10 Hamid Hassan, 11 Shapoor Zadran
Pitch and conditions
Manuka Oval is known to be full of runs. Just last month, England collected 364 and 391 in two practice one-dayers before the tri-series here. In the second one, the opposition replied with 331.
Temperatures are expected to be around 30 degrees in Canberra, which has seen some clouds come over in the evening past couple of days, although there hasn't been rain.
Stats and trivia
• Bangladesh have never played at a venue other than Cairns or Darwin in Australia
• Afghanistan have played only ten ODIs against Full Member sides
• Bangladesh's win-loss record is 8-17 in World Cups
"We have some very good quicks. Yes, they're still young, but they have the potential and hopefully they'll do their job. I feel that our spinners are world class and can bowl on any wicket."
"Honestly, we're here to compete in every fixture. We're not here to fill fixtures. We believe if we play good cricket, we'll challenge every side that we play against."
Afghanistan coach Andy Moles
*Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
Copyright: ESPN Sports Media Ltd.