Sports desk: With back to the wall, Bangladesh have just one thing to do—to win the second T20 against Afghanistan today and level the series to give them a shot to win the three-match series. A series defeat against Afghanistan would be hard to fathom, a tough pill to swallow, something which was clearly understood the way the cricket fraternity and the fans reacted after Bangladesh’s 45-run defeat to Afghanistan in the series opener.
Afghanistan scored 168 for eight and then defended it by shooting Bangladesh out for 122 in 19 overs, relying on the magic of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi, the trio who were expected to be the nemesis of Bangladesh in the series and they preciously made it true.
But rather than Rashid Khan’s performance, the cricket fraternity and fans were busy to lash out Shakib Al Hasan vehemently for keeping Mahmudullah Riyad and Mosaddek Hossain Saikat away from bowling in the death overs.
Both of them bowled just one over with Mahmudullah giving just one run and took two wickets while Saikat though couldn’t take any wicket, gave away just three runs. Shakib stuck to his pacers and gave them the duty to bowl in the death overs—the pacers—Rubel Hossain, Abu Jayed Rahi and Abul Hasan conceded 71 runs in the last five overs and helped Afghanistan post a competitive total.
Shakib however later explained as to why he didn’t choose spinners to bowl again: “It’s a tough decision (not to hand Riyad the ball). If I had given him one more over and he had gone for a few sixers, you would have asked me why I gave him the ball and not the regular bowlers.”
What Shakib pointed out was that the pacers are able to give Yorker, back of length delivery to prevent batsmen from big-hitting in the death overs while a batsman could easily take a risk of stepping out to play a big shot against spinners.
“We bowled well but the last four overs were different and we paid the price for that. It’s not a good scenario to concede more than 60 in four overs. They had lost four wickets before the score reached 100.”
However not the bowlers only, Shakib thought batsmen should take responsibility.
“When you’re chasing 170-odd, you need to bat well, top order batsmen need to bat through, but we kept on losing wickets. Credit to them. They have quality spinners and they stepped it up,” he pointed out.
And if the batsmen failed to deliver once again and kept falling to Rashid and Mujeeb without any resistance, the pre-series speculation (Afghanistan favourite) would be preciously justified.
However not everything is rosy for Afghanistan. They frittered away a solid start with the bat, stuttered briefly but were helped by the strength of their lower order. Afghanistan are a win away from recording their fourth bilateral T20I series win over a Test-playing nation. All three of these till date have come against Zimbabwe.
One thing is for sure: after Sunday, Afghanistan will be supremely confident of defending anything over 150.