I am sure the Bangladesh team would have watched Australia’s match against New Zealand with great interest. I did too, because I wanted to get a sense of what one could expect from Australia. While the team was their formidable self, there were a few signs that Bangladesh will take heart from.
The no-result in that match at Edgbaston on Friday means Monday’s match at The Oval is important not just for Bangladesh, but for Australia as well. It is clearly a do-or-die match for Bangladesh, who lost their opening game to England on Thursday and will be out of the ICC Champions Trophy if they don’t defeat Australia.
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But it is also a very important game for Australia because if they don't win, qualification will become tough. From both teams’ point of view, there is no way back if they make a mistake, which sets the stage for what should be a humdinger.
If you compare the two teams, Australia is definitely ahead in both bowling and batting. They have someone of the calibre of Glenn Maxwell in the middle-order who brings with him the same X-factor that Ben Stokes does for England.
Then, there are David Warner and Steve Smith – a lot of quality players. And when you look at their bowling attack, guys like Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins have a lot of firepower. They don't have a quality spinner – they didn’t play Adam Zampa against New Zealand - but they still have a really good attack.
But the one thing Bangladesh should look at positively from Friday’s match is that the Australian bowlers didn’t look unplayable. While they might be quick and fierce, they can also be taken for runs in different ways, like Luke Ronchi and Kane Williamson showed.
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That’s something Bangladesh can derive confidence from. In the last game against England, Bangladesh didn’t bowl particularly well, but are batting with confidence and purpose at the moment. If the bowlers can pull up their socks and deliver on the big stage, I honestly believe they have a fair chance against Australia.
The important thing for Bangladesh is to be positive. At The Oval against England, Bangladesh was a bit defensive with both their bowling and their fielding. On good batting tracks, it is difficult to contain quality batsmen, therefore the intent must be to go for wickets even if you are a little expensive. The lines and lengths of the Bangladeshi bowlers were pretty good against England, but line and length can only take you so far. You need to bowl wicket-taking deliveries, you need to keep thinking “wicket, wicket, wicket.”
In the last game, Australia showed a little bit of vulnerability at the top of the order. They have good batsmen, but no one is invincible, no one is indestructible. With their presence in the tournament on the line, Bangladesh must keep that in mind and play their best cricket yet, otherwise their last game will be only be of academic interest.
As we mentioned in our last column, Bangladesh made a tactical mistake by going a bowler short against England. With there being no second chances, they must play with five bowlers this time around. It will be another flat track at The Oval if there is no rain, which means you must have the extra bowler. And even if there is help from the weather, an eighth batsman isn’t of much use if the top-seven don’t come up trumps.
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I would like to see Mehedi Hasan in the playing XI, and Mashrafe Mortaza can even toss the new ball to the 19-year-old off-spinner. There are a lot of hard-hitting opening batsmen who don’t like playing spin at the beginning of their innings, so that won’t be a bad idea. And once the ball gets old, he will obviously be quite a handful, as he has shown in his brief international career.
Bangladesh might also opt for a pace bowler instead of Mehedi, and that’s fine as well, so long as the intent is to play the extra bowler. At the end of the day, in a must-win game, the need of the hour is to take wickets, as Mashrafe and the think-tank will be well aware.
This article first appeared on icc-cricket.com.
Champions Trophy 2017 Guide
Squads: Every Champions Trophy nation
2 June – New Zealand v Australia, No Result
4 June – India beat Pakistan by 124 runs
5 June – Australia v Bangladesh, The Oval (D/N)
6 June – England v New Zealand, Cardiff (D)
7 June – Pakistan v South Africa, Edgbaston (D/N)
8 June – India v Sri Lanka, The Oval (D)
9 June – New Zealand v Bangladesh, Cardiff (D)
10 June – England v Australia, Edgbaston (D)
11 June – India v South Africa, The Oval (D)
12 June – Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Cardiff (D)
14 June – First semi-final (A1 v B2), Cardiff (D)
15 June – Second semi-final (A2 v B1), Edgbaston (D)
18 June – Final, The Oval (D)
19 June – Reserve day (D)