Bangladesh suffered their second successive loss in their last official warm-up fixture leading up to the T20 World Cup with a 33-run defeat against Ireland at the Tolerance Oval in Abu Dhabi yesterday. The defeat came hot on the heels of a defeat against Sri Lanka two days earlier despite the Tigers being in control of the match for a large period of the game.
Even as Bangladesh went into both these games without Mahmudullah Riyad and Shakib Al Hasan, the team's think tank would now need to address whether the losses dented the much talked-about confidence that the Tigers gained from the recent series wins against Australia and New Zealand at home.
Chief selector Minhajul Abedin had said that Bangladesh's World Cup preparations would begin in Oman during the announcement of the World Cup squad. Even taking that remark on face value, there has been a reversal in fate for some players in the practice matches which could render the confidence gained as null leading into the World Cup Round 1.
The top-order batting was once again brought back into focus in these practice matches. While openers Liton Das and Mohammad Naim scored runs against Oman 'A' before the official warm-up matches, they failed to get up to gear on pitches more conducive to shot-making against Sri Lanka and Ireland. Chasing a target of 178 against Ireland yesterday -- usually a par on such pitches – the top-order succumbed with Liton and Naim perishing inside the first two overs. Mushfiqur Rahim's form has been subdued since returning to the side in the New Zealand series and yesterday the batsman departed for a run-a-ball four. As the most key member in the middle-order, Mushfiqur's lack of runs directly correlates to a lack of answers when under pressure with the bat.
Continuing on that theme of reversal in performances compared to Mirpur pitches, Soumya was amongst the runs again yesterday during a 30-ball 37. The left-hander had a torrid time at home against Australia but provided substance to the batting which led to Tigers eventually reaching 144 all-out. Except for Nurul Hasan, who struck a team-high 24-ball 38, not much else came from the lower middle-order with Shamim Hossain, Afif Hossain and Mahedi Hasan unable to play meaningful knocks.
The biggest setback could be the dent in the bowlers' confidence. Pacers Mustafizur Rahman, Shoriful Islam and spinner Nasum Ahmed had been key to the Tigers' potency with the ball at home in recent few series. Yesterday, Mustafizur and Shoriful both went wicket-less, conceding 40 and 41 runs from their respective four overs while Nasum went for 33 in three overs, bagging the wicket of opener Paul Stirling.
Ireland's number three, Gareth Delany, took the attack to the cleaners during an unbeaten 50-ball 88, hitting eight sixes and three fours as Ireland posted 177 for three in 20 overs. Perhaps there was a lack of help from the surface but it may also be the case that the bowlers did not face enough challenge in recent series which could get them mentally ready to face onslaughts and come up with answers. The preparation time now is up and it remains to be seen whether preparation matches helped or dented their confidence.
The Tigers were scheduled to depart for Oman last night to play the Round 1 matches and with their first match against Scotland on October 17, not much time is available to recover confidence. The Tigers will now hope that Shakib and skipper Mahmudullah returning to the side can bring them that x-factor in the coveted tournament.