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Eyeing series win, Bangladesh seek top-order solidity

Mustafizur Rahman is chuffed after grabbing a wicket AFP

Big Picture

Bangladesh have been finding ways to win even as their top order has struggled this year. They've won nine out of 15 ODIs since January, but 2018 hasn't been good for their top four.

Barring the final of the Asia Cup, the last time a Bangladesh opening pair lasted the first ten overs of an ODI innings was back in January, in the third match of the tri-nation series. In the 13 ODIs since, the openers have repeatedly failed to get through the Powerplay unscathed, and during the Asia Cup they were two or three down inside the first ten in every game apart from the final against India.

It was a familiar story in their series opener against Zimbabwe - Liton Das survived an early run-out chance and a catch that was ruled not out by the TV umpire only to spoon a catch to mid-off, Fazle Mahmud fended at a lifter for a duck on debut, and Bangladesh's middle order was under severe pressure early on.

As they close in on their sixth World Cup appearance, all this points to a pressing question: who is going to open with Tamim Iqbal? Imrul Kayes' career-best ton did his chances no harm, while Anamul Haque has fallen out of favour, Soumya Sarkar and Nazmul Hossain Shanto struggled at the Asia Cup, and while Liton registered his maiden ODI century in that final he has struggled for consistency. His partner in that game was Mehidy Hasan, but that is an experiment unlikely to be repeated in the long term. Heading into the second ODI against Zimbabwe, the hosts are searching for consistency at the top.

So are the visitors. Zimbabwe have trialled seven different opening combinations in ODIs this year, and while the Solomon Mire-Hamilton Masakadza combo seems to be their favoured one, it hasn't been helped by Mire's indifferent form. He is averaging 14.77 in ODIs this year, without a fifty, while Masakadza has strung together several 20s recently but hasn't been able to convert his starts. The difference for Zimbabwe is that, unlike Bangladesh, they have not been able to recover through the middle order or land the killer blow with the ball, and have won just five of 24 ODIs this year.

Form guide

Bangladesh: WLWWL (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
Zimbabwe: LLLLL

In the spotlight

Brendan Taylor has scored more runs than anyone else against Bangladesh in ODIs, and despite missing Zimbabwe's mid-year assignment against Pakistan he is still his country's leading run-scorer in ODIs this year. But he's not passed fifty since his 138 against West Indies at the World Cup Qualifiers in March, and in five of the eight limited-overs innings he's played since then, he's been out to spin. Zimbabwe desperately need Taylor to play to the potential of his statistics if they are to keep the series alive.

Mustafizur Rahman only took one wicket in the opening match, but the waspish menace of his spells meant that Bangladesh retained control throughout Zimbabwe's chase. He was the most economical of the home attack, racking up 36 dot balls as Zimbabwe sought simply to see him off. He also seemed to have added a little more zip through the air, and it was easy to see why he is Bangladesh's leading wicket-taker in ODIs this year.

Team news

Rubel Hossain is fit but Bangladesh are unlikely to go for four pacers in their playing XI. The team management could also think of Nazmul Hossain Shanto in place of Fazle Mahmud.

Bangladesh (probable): 1 Liton Das, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Fazle Mahmud, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Mohammad Mithun, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 8 Mohammad Saifuddin, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza, 10 Nazmul Islam, 11 Mustafizur Rahman

An out-of-sorts Mire will probably sit out for Cephas Zhuwao once again, and Zimbabwe may look to firm up their batting with the inclusion of Tarisai Musakanda.

Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Hamilton Masakadza, 2 Cephas Zhuwao, 3 Craig Ervine, 4 Brendan Taylor (wk), 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Sean Williams, 7 Peter Moor/Tarisai Musakanda, 8 Donald Tiripano, 9 Brandon Mavuta, 10 Kyle Jarvis, 11 Tendai Chatara

Pitch and conditions

Chasing sides have won four out of seven day-night games at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium where pitches are reputed to be batting-friendly. The weather is likely to be dry on Wednesday, and dew could be a factor.

Stats and trivia

  • Bangladesh have never lost an ODI to Zimbabwe at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium. The teams have played five completed ODIs at the ground.

  • Brendan Taylor is the only Zimbabwe batsman to have made an ODI century at this ground.

  • No bowler has taken an ODI five-for here, though Shakib Al Hasan has come close twice with four-wicket hauls.

Quotes

"You have to shuffle according to the situation in ODIs. Everybody is on their toes that they can bat anywhere from three to five."
Lalchand Rajput on whether Zimbabwe are thinking of rejigging their middle order

"Mushfiqur made nearly 150 against Sri Lanka, almost a hundred against Pakistan so he should have scored 200 against Zimbabwe. Mustafizur should have taken five or six wickets. But cricket doesn't work that way."
Mashrafe Mortaza on whether Bangladesh are taking Zimbabwe lightly

Bangladesh 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st148Imrul KayesLiton Das
2nd4Fazle MahmudImrul Kayes
3rd59Mushfiqur RahimImrul Kayes
4th39Mushfiqur RahimMohammad Mithun