Afghanistan v Bangladesh, Group A, Canberra February 18, 2015

Bangladesh evade the banana peel

Afghanistan were the bogey team and Bangladesh as the Full Member were expected to defeat them. Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza did just that

Mushfiqur Rahim broke the stumps emphatically to run the last man out and seal Bangladesh's big win over Afghanistan. He and his team-mates then took a victory lap to acknowledge the thousands of Bangladesh supporters who had turned up at Manuka Oval. Those two gestures alone showed how much this match meant.

This was the bogey game for Bangladesh and "let's get it out of the way," had seemed the refrain from the players and support staff in the build-up. They can breathe a little easier now. They were expected to win as the Full Member against the Associate, which had beaten them at home in the only previous ODI between the two teams. Mushfiqur was the captain then, which explains the manner of the run-out. It was the final release. For all the pressure that had been on Bangladesh, as Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi helpfully pointed out in the pre-match press conference.

Bangladesh sides are not used to being under this kind of pressure, let alone the pressure of being favourites in a World Cup match in a country where they hadn't played an ODI since 2008. It showed in their decision to pack the XI with batsmen - Mominul Haque was slotted to come in at No. 7 and eventually arrived at No. 9, as additional insurance after Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur.

However, Bangladesh have played considerably more one-day cricket, and against quality oppositions, than the Afghans. If they were to dodge this banana peel of a match, Bangladesh would have to use that experience and win crucial periods of play. And they did just that.

The openers did not score too many but survived the initial burst from Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran, which was talked about as one of the key challenges for Bangladesh ahead of the game. Tamim Iqbal and Anamul Haque were not really comfortable and the partnership could have been broken in the third over had Afghanistan reviewed a caught-behind decision. But they hung in against the new balls.

Mushfiqur later said there were nerves at the start of the match, but they slowly dissipated around halfway through the innings. Before that, Bangladesh also allowed themselves to be tied down by the medium-pace of Mirwais Ashraf.

Zadran struck a couple of blows in the middle overs, but Bangladesh had Shakib and Mushfiqur together at 119 for 4. Their two best batsmen responded with a century stand that ensured recovery and also raised the tempo of the innings. Then they pulled Bangladesh in front in the Powerplay, which is when Afghanistan's discipline came undone, as 48 runs in the five overs indicates.

When it came to the chase, Bangladesh were switched on right away. Mashrafe Mortaza and Rubel Hossain were sharp and reduced Afghanistan to 3 for 3 after three overs. Hunting down 268 from there would have been tough on far stronger batting line-ups. It would have been interesting if one of the later partnerships had become bigger, but Bangladesh did not let that happen.

In stark contrast, Afghanistan just froze under the floodlights. Coach Andy Moles credited the Bangladesh bowlers' early hostility, but also said that his top order had fallen for lack of footwork. It was almost as if they were waiting for a couple of easy overs to settle in, Moles said, and Mashrafe and his fellow quicks were in no mood to do that. Coming into the match, the Bangladesh pace attack had given their own batsmen a hard time in the nets. They were charged up further after their batsmen gave them a reasonably big total to defend.

The scoreline of 3 for 3 meant that even when the odd poor delivery came along, Afghanistan could do nothing with it. For a side known to favour the big hits, they managed 11 fours in their entire innings. Bangladesh hit 24, Shakib and Mushfiqur tallied 12.

The margin of victory may have been 105 runs but as Mushfiqur said, this was not an easy win. It was achieved with major contributions from the big players in the side, and that is not a bad way to start a World Cup. Bangladesh face Australia at the Gabba next, which will be a totally different proposition. But at least they will play without the pressure of being the favourites there.

Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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