The Bangladesh cricket team led by Mashrafe Mortaza, will begin its campaign at the 2018 Asia Cup, to be held in the UAE from September 15-28, against Sri Lanka in the tournament opener on Saturday, September 18.
The Bangladesh cricket team led by Mashrafe Mortaza, will begin its campaign at the 2018 Asia Cup, to be held in the UAE from September 15-28, against Sri Lanka in the tournament opener on Saturday, September 18.

The Bangladesh cricket team led by Mashrafe Mortaza, will begin its campaign at the 2018 Asia Cup, to be held in the UAE from September 15-28, against Sri Lanka in the tournament opener on Saturday, September 18.

Bangladesh are placed in Group B of the Asia Cup along with Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Mortaza’s team will  play Afghanistan on September 20. The top two teams from each group will enter the Super Four, from which the final two will meet in Dubai for the final on September 28.

Here’s a look at Bangladesh’s strengths and weaknesses ahead of the Asia Cup.

Squad make-up:

Batsmen: Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Mosaddek Hossain, Nazmul Hossain Shanto, Mominul Haque

Allrounders: Shakib Al Hasan, Ariful Haque, Mahmudullah, Mehidy Hasan

Wicketkeepers: Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Mithun

Fast bowlers: Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Mashrafe Mortaza, Abu Hider

Spinners: Nazmul Islam

X-factor: Mustafizur Rahman & Tamim Iqbal. If fit Mustafizur Rahman is an asset. Period. Be it upfront or in the death overs, Mustafizur, with his cutters and variations in pace has been able to keep a tab on the scoring rate, which in turns yields him wickets.  However, the injury-prone Rahman has been in and out of action lately. He sustained shoulder and ankle injuries in 2017, and earlier this year he injured his left toe while playing for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.

Tamim Iqbal is Bangladesh’s leading run-getter in ODIs with 6305 runs and comes in to the 2018 Asia Cup on the back credible performance in the West Indies, which helped his side win the ODI and T20I series. He scored 287 runs with scores of 130*, 54 and 103 and he would aim to continue the form in the Asia Cup providing his team with stable starts

Strengths: Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah have been around for a long time and have become pillars of strength for Bangladesh over the years. Shakib is the No.1 allrounder in ICC rankings for a reason and Mahmudullah has transformed himself into a reliable lower-order finisher. Alongside the experienced Mushfiqur Rahim the trio forge a potent middle-order for Bangladesh.

Weaknesses: Injury-hit squad: The fiasco over Shakib’s surgery and his subsequent selection has not been good for the team morale. But facts are facts. Shakib has been hampered by left little finger since January, Tamim has a slightly swollen right ring finger Nazmul Hossain Shanto, suffered a dislocated right index finger. While Bangladesh have back-ups in the squad, but can they really fill in for Shakib and Tamim, if things go that way?

Head-to-Head: Bangladesh have played Sri Lanka in 12 ODI matches in the Asia Cup, winning just one, losing 11. However, they can take heart from the fact that in last Asia Cup in 2016, which was a T20 format edition, Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka by 23 runs. Against Afghanistan, Bangladesh lost their only encounter in 2014 Asia Cup by 32 runs.

Prediction: Bangladesh are ranked higher than Sri Lanka and Afghanistan so that would essentially mean Bangladesh are likely to top Group B. However, Sri Lanka got the better of Bangladesh by 78 runs in January this year in a tri-series final and no one is taking Asghar Afghan-led side lightly. The top spot in Group B is well and truly a three-way battle. Bangladesh can qualify for Super 4 and if they are able to hold their nerves in big matches they can reach the final, lest you forget, in the three editions of Asia Cup, Bangladesh had managed to reach the final twice

Probable XI: 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Liton Das, 3 Mominul Haque, 4 Shakib Al Hasan, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Mushrafe Mortaza (capt), 8 Mosaddek Hossain, 9 Mehidy Hasan, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Mustafizur Rahman

Fixtures:

September 15 v Sri Lanka, Dubai (5pm IST)

September 20 v Afghanistan, Abu Dhabi (5pm IST)