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4th Match, Group B (D/N), Lahore, September 03, 2023, Asia Cup
(44.3/50 ov, T:335) 245

Bangladesh won by 89 runs

Player Of The Match
112* (119) & 1/41

Afghanistan's middle order in focus as Bangladesh enter knockout territory

Afghanistan are opening their campaign while Bangladesh are already staring at the prospect of elimination

Ashish Pant

Big picture: Knockout game for Bangladesh

One team gears up for its opening fixture. The other already finds itself in must-win territory. The Asia Cup began just four days ago and is a short tournament with just six teams participating, which has left Bangladesh staring at the prospect of elimination while Afghanistan are just about getting started.
All the spotlight so far has been on the India-Pakistan rivalry and the Naagin derby, but Afghanistan and Bangladesh are also capable of producing a spicy contest. The pressure, though, will squarely be on Bangladesh, who looked rusty in their opening game. The batters, barring Najmul Hossain Shanto, looked feeble, and the bowlers failed to put in sustained pressure.
The action now moves to Lahore, relatively unknown terrain for both sides. Bangladesh last played an ODI at the Gaddafi Stadium back in 2008, with Mushfiqur Rahim being the sole player from that squad who will turn out on Sunday. For Afghanistan, it will be their first-ever international game in Pakistan.
Afghanistan come into this contest on the back of a 0-3 loss to Pakistan and a lot will depend on how their top order goes. They are heavily dependent on Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmat Shah, who have scored the bulk of the runs in ODIs since the start of 2022. Get through them, and Bangladesh will feel they have the upper hand. To add to their woes, Rahmat has been out of form and was even dropped for the second and third ODIs against Pakistan.
In the middle order, there's Riaz Hassan, who is just five games into his ODI career, Najibullah Zadran, who is returning from a knee injury, and Karim Janat, who hasn't played an ODI in six years. Afghanistan will, however, gain confidence from the fact that they defeated Bangladesh in an ODI series recently.
Bangladesh will need to be careful early, especially against the left-arm pace of Fazalhaq Farooqi, who did the most damage in that ODI series.

Form guide

Afghanistan LLLLW (last five ODIs, most recent first)
Bangladesh LWLLW

In the spotlight: Ibrahim Zadran and Shakib Al Hasan

Ibrahim Zadran has had a stellar start to his ODI career. In just 17 innings, he has scored three half-centuries and four centuries, all of which have come since June 2022. With 827 runs in 16 ODIs at 59.07, Ibrahim is the highest run-getter for Afghanistan since the start of 2022.
The spotlight is often on Shakib Al Hasan during a Bangladesh game but there will be especially high expectations from him on Sunday. He's been consistently effective with the ball, but Bangladesh will need Shakib the batter to come good. While he does not have a great record against Afghanistan, he has enough experience playing their bowlers in internationals as well as in franchise cricket, and will need to bring all of that out into play to guide a young unit.

Team news: Will Bangladesh stick with the same XI?

Mustafizur Rahman came into the competition struggling with a knee niggle and bowled just three overs against Sri Lanka. There is a chance that Bangladesh might want to rest him and play the fast bowler Hasan Mahmud. They might also look to bring in Anamul Haque in place of one of the two inexperienced openers.
Bangladesh XI (probable): 1 Mohammad Naim, 2 Tanzid Hasan/Anamul Haque, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 4 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 5 Towhid Hridoy, 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 7 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 8 Mahedi Hasan/Afif Hossain, 9 Taskin Ahmed, 10 Mustafizur Rahman/Hasan Mahmud, 11 Shoriful Islam
Najibullah is likely to walk back into the XI after an injury layoff, while Afghanistan might also want to bring in Rahmat for his experience.
Afghanistan XI (probable): 1 Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), 2 Ibrahim Zadran, 3 Riaz Hassan/Rahmat Shah, 4 Hashmatullah Shahidi (capt), 5 Najibullah Zadran, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Karim Janat, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 10 Fazalhaq Farooqi, 11 Abdul Rahman

Pitch and conditions

Clear blue skies are expected in Lahore at the start of the encounter, with the temperature likely to be around the 25-degree mark as the evening kicks in. There is no forecast for rain. Batters have made merry at the Gaddafi Stadium in recent times. Scores of 300 were breached in three of the six innings when Australia visited for an ODI series last year. More recently, in April this year, New Zealand and Pakistan also played a number of high-scoring T20Is here.

Stats and trivia

  • Since the start of 2022, Bangladesh pacers' collective bowling average (23.63) in the first ten overs is only behind Australia (23.06) among Full Member teams.
  • Since January 2022, Mustafizur has picked up only 21 wickets in 22 ODIs, averaging 36.04, which is the worst among Bangladesh bowlers to have picked up ten-plus wickets in this period.
  • Afghanistan have played only 27 ODIs since the start of August 2019, the fewest among all Full Member nations.

Ashish Pant is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo

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