Staff Correspondent: First, they skillfully dismissed Afghanistan for a mere 156, then they chased it down with six wickets to spare.
Bangladesh has made a roaring start to their ICC World Cup 2023 campaign. With this victory in Dharamsala, they have also taken a significant stride in dispelling the controversies that surrounded the team right before the World Cup.
Bangladesh has always sought a beginning that could set the tone for the rest of the tournament. With a six-wicket triumph against a team that has proven to be a challenging opponent in recent years, Bangladesh has achieved just that in the first World Cup held in the subcontinent since 2011.
In their previous series against Afghanistan at home, Bangladesh grappled with controversies. The then-captain, Tamim Iqbal, announced a sudden retirement during that series amidst fitness-related controversy, leading to a series loss at home.
So, ahead of today’s match, Bangladesh had to contend with that memory as well, although they held a superior record against Afghanistan in the World Cups. In their last two encounters at cricket’s grandest stage, Bangladesh emerged victorious.
The bowlers demonstrated they were up for the challenge. Winning the toss, Bangladesh chose to bowl first. Afghanistan, thanks to Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran, got off to a brisk start, amassing 47 runs for the first wicket.
Bangladesh captain, Shakib Al Hasan, took the ball into his hands even before the 10th over. This move paid off swiftly – Shakib broke Afghanistan’s opening partnership, dismissing Ibrahim.
Before reaching the 100-run mark, Afghanistan suffered another blow. Then, Bangladesh witnessed an unexpected turn of events as Afghanistan crumbled, losing all their wickets to reach 156 from 83.
Rahmanullah emerged as their top scorer with 47 runs. However, the others failed to respond effectively to Bangladesh’s well-coordinated bowling attack.
Shakib claimed three wickets, as did Mehidy Hasan Miraz, while Shoriful Islam managed two.
Bangladesh demonstrated sharpness in the field during this match. Tanzid Hasan Tamim and Towhid Hridoy, both making their World Cup debuts, took two impressive catches each, aiding the Tigers in restricting Afghanistan to a subpar total.
In response to 156, Bangladesh lost both openers with just 23 runs on the board in the 7th over. Tanzid set off for a run when Litton Das attempted a cover drive that wasn’t executed well. Litton signaled Tanzid to return to his crease, Tanzid complied, but it was too late. He was caught in a run-out.
Shortly after, Litton himself headed back. Again, he tried to guide the ball towards the cover region, but the ball swerved in, catching the inner edge of his bat before shattering his stumps.
However, in the second wicket partnership, Najmul Hossain Shanto and Miraz built a formidable stand, accumulating 97 runs off 129 balls. This partnership effectively swung the match in favor of the Tigers.
Miraz was sent early in the batting order considering his recent form. In the Asia Cup, he scored a ton against the same opponent in Pakistan. The move paid off as Miraz guided the team to a comfortable win.
Afghanistan displayed sloppy fielding. They missed at least two catches off Miraz – one by Najibullah Zadran at the point, and another at the boundary line by Mujeeb Ur Rahman. This proved costly, as Miraz went on to score a fifty. A three-wicket haul and a fifty, Miraz was later announced the player of the match.
His partner in the biggest stand of Bangladesh in this match, Shanto, also secured a half-century and sealed the match with two consecutive fours off Naveen-ul-Haq.
Bangladesh reached the target of 157 in 34.4 overs with 92 balls remaining. Shanto remained unbeaten at 59.
Rashid Khan, Afghanistan’s premier spinner, has often been a major challenge for Bangladesh. But today, he was less effective, conceding 48 runs in 9 overs without taking a wicket.
In the next match, Bangladesh will face England on October 10 at the same venue. Prior to the main event, Bangladesh suffered a rain-affected loss to England in a warm-up match. However, after a convincing win against Afghanistan, Bangladesh will be eager to put that match behind them.
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