SOUTHAMPTON: Afghanistan restricted Bangladesh to 262 with seven wickets down on Sunday here at Southampton.
Mushfiqur Rahim, with 83 runs remained the only Bengali top scorer of the day as Mujeebur Rahman took three important wickets to outclass the Tigers. Skipper Gulbadin Naib took two while Dawlat and Nabi took one wicket each.
Afghanistan have improved significantly in their last two matches in the World Cup and it could be their day on Monday when they take on Bangladesh in the league game at Rose Bowl, captain Gulbadin Naib said.
Afghanistan remain rooted to the bottom of the points table after six defeats in as many matches in their second World Cup appearance.
They did not last their full 50 overs in their first four matches, a streak they finally snapped in their comprehensive defeat by England on Tuesday.
Gulbadin’s men, however, draw motivation from Saturday’s narrow-miss against India when they fell 11 runs short of a major upset win over the two-time champions.
“I think we cannot take it easy against Bangladesh. They’re a good side and they proved themselves in this stage,” Gulbadin told reporters on Sunday. “But one thing about my team is that it’s not an easy team. The first four or five games, we played very badly but we are improving day by day, and hopefully tomorrow [Monday] will be our day.”
Gulbadin said his team struggled to adjust to English conditions where their spinners found little help from the tracks.
“In the first three-four games, we struggled a lot. The surface and the wickets are totally different. We didn’t expect it.”
Afghanistan have built their bowling attack around their three frontline spinners, who came up with an improved performance in the match against India.
They will play Bangladesh, who have two wins from six matches, on the same slow track on Monday.
“It’s a very good wicket for us. It’s like Asian conditions with the ball turning,” Gulbadin said.
If the wicket offers some turn, Rashid Khan and his spin colleagues would be quite a handful against Bangladesh, Naib said.
“Yesterday [Saturday] you saw it against India, who have probably the best batting attack. So if the wicket helps our spinners, it’s very difficult for any team, not only Bangladesh.”
Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes, meanwhile, reckons the slow track and big outfield at the Rose Bowl may result in a boundary drought and has told his batsmen to run hard against Afghanistan.
Rhodes followed Saturday’s match in which India survived a mighty scare against Afghanistan in a low-scoring thriller.
“I watched bit of the game live and rest on TV. The wicket was a little bit slower and turned a little bit. We’re playing on the same wicket, so that’s useful to know,” Rhodes said on Sunday. “The wicket is right in the middle of the ground and there are some huge boundaries.
“So six-hitting and four-hitting might be less, like the other day against India. We’ll certainly have to run hard for our singles and twos, and turn them into threes. That’s an important aspect.”
The track might suit his bowlers though, the Englishman said.
Afghanistan bowled with lot of discipline against India. Leg-spinner Rashid Khan will be particularly pleased having bounced back from his mauling by England captain Eoin Morgan to return figures 10-0-38-1.
Rhodes said they respected the Afghan spinners but were not intimidated by them.
“I think the word is respect,” Rhodes said. “We do respect them but we don’t fear them. A lot of the lads have grown up playing on spinning wickets, they faced a lot of spin bowlers. We’ll respect them because they are top international bowlers.”
Admiration is the other emotion he has for the plucky Afghans in their second World Cup appearance.
“We’re not fearful of them, but you know what, I’m really proud also of Afghanistan’s rise in the cricketing ranks,” Rhodes said. “Bangladesh did a fine job in 20 years internationally. Afghanistan are now doing a good job. I think these two countries are actually where cricket is thriving.”
Bangladesh suffered an injury scare when Mehidy Hasan suffered a blow to the head while giving an interview but Rhodes said the off-spinner was doing well.
“Mehidy just got a hit on the side of his head when giving an interview, the ball came flying out of the net. He seems OK, he seems fine. The physio is checking him. There was no blood or anything like that,” he said.
With input from REUTERS.