Shanto and middle-order can’t always be the answer
Bangladesh's batting effort in their Asia Cup opener against Sri Lanka yesterday struck a familiar chord with the two side's memorable outing in the tournament's 2018 edition, the last time the Tigers beat the Islanders in an Asia Cup fixture.
In the game dating back to 2018, it was Mushfiqur Rahim who set up the victory with a massive 144 run-knock while the bowlers all contributed to restrict Sri Lanka to 124. Barring Mohammad Mithun, who struck 63, only three other batters reached double figures and all three came in at eight, nine and eleven respectively. Later, Tamim Iqbal came out with a broken hand to partner Mushfiqur during a 32-run stand.
Yesterday, however, only Najmul Hossain Shanto, who once again got amongst the runs, procured an important 89. Despite the gap in the scores from the two matches, what threaded the batting effort from both games together was that no other batter played around Shanto this time to make a more substantial total as Bangladesh fell away for just 164 with 7.2 overs to spare.
Bangladesh's recent success in ODIs have mostly come down to the bowling attacks potency, with the pacers often shining for the team. But the batters' contribution has been a headache. The team often depends on one or two batters on form. Currently, it is either Shanto, Tawhid Hridoy or Mushfiqur while Shakib often turns up.
The opening pair has remained unstable this year with Tamim Iqbal falling prey to injuries, and coupled with the fever that eventually led to Liton Das being ruled out of the Asia Cup, meant that a very new opening pair started the Asia Cup. Of course, a new pair was going to face difficulty but what about the rest?
Poor batting plan, tactical mishaps or poor shot selection appear to be major reasons for batting woe.
It may not have been a brilliant batting track but there was enough of a platform during the 59-run stand between Shanto and Hridoy to put up a suitable score.
First up the Powerplay battle. When Sri Lanka brought on mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana in just the second over, it was to arrest any momentum the opening duo might have gathered seeing there was no sideways movement for the pacer Kasun Rajitha. Theekshana was also a matchup for the two left-handers as they kept guessing on whether the ball was coming in or going away. When both openers departed and with Shanto at one end, Shakib kept up the chain of left-handers -- a questionable decision in hindsight -- by coming to bat at number four. The situation did not get better when Shakib departed.
Hridoy for his part, showed intent with singles but once he departed, followed by Mushfiqur a little later, Bangladesh appeared to have no answer.
In winning causes this year, Shanto, Shakib, Mushfiqur and Hridoy average at 48.20, 58.25, 65 and 65, respectively. In losing outcomes, on the other hand, the same players from number three to six average 17.75, 26.50, 22.50 and 33.50, respectively. The difference in average is pretty big and it means that when number three to six do not put in a commendable effort, Bangladesh often find themselves out in deep water and sink.
Key point is that consistent performances have not come from lower middle-order and opening slots recently. While opening problems may be solved when Tamim and Liton return, it is contributions from elsewhere, one that has to be guided by proper batting plan, that the Tigers too must procure.