The Tigers are all set to face the Three Lions in Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi today afternoon at 4.00 pm Bangladesh time.
Although not mathematically, psychologically this game is a must-win for Bangladesh since two losses from the first two matches in a very competitive Group 1 will make it near impossible for the Tigers to qualify for the Semi-Finals.
Both sides are going into this encounter with very different momentum. England, on one hand, are booming in confidence with a comprehensive victory against the defending champions West Indies in their opening fixture.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, are in a mental state of self-doubt after losing their first game against Sri Lanka despite having the Lions tottering at 79/4 at one stage while defending 171.
Batting against quality spin can be a cause of concern for England. The last time they played a series in Asia was a 5-match encounter in India earlier this year, which they lost at a 3-2 margin.
Even in the last game, while chasing a target of 56, they struggled a bit against the left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein. Although the pitches have not been that conducive to spin after Day 1 of Super 12, Shakib Al Hasan may still prove to be a tricky customer for them to handle. Mahedi Hasan and Nasum Ahmed (if picked) will also fancy their chances if the ball holds a little bit in the wicket.
On that note, the English wicket-keeper batter Jos Buttler said, as quoted by ESPNcricinfo-
“We prepare specifically for the opposition and also for the conditions we face. I think spin is obviously going to play a huge part in this tournament, and of course, Bangladesh have a couple of left-arm spinners, so we've been practising against that lots in the nets and trying to get some plans in place.”
On the other side of the coin, problems galore for Bangladesh – loss of early wickets, not enough positive intent in the powerplay, lack of consistency in the entire batting lineup, absence of a power-hitter to take full toll of the slog overs, not enough wickets for the Fizz, death bowling, and most importantly, catching.
England are expected to field the same team today as Mark Wood is likely to get further rest due to the niggle in his left ankle.
On the contrary, Taskin Ahmed is expected to make a comeback in place of Mohammad Saifuddin, who will miss out today due to an injury concern. Should Abu Dhabi dish out a hard and flat batting deck or a surface with a tinge of grass, Shoriful Islam getting his maiden World Cup appearance by replacing Nasum Ahmed will become a possibility.
However, should the pitch be more likely to assist the slow bowlers, Nasum Ahmed will retain his place in the XI.
In case of a slow pitch, there is an outside chance that Bangladesh might feel tempted to take Soumya Sarkar in place of Litton Das. Considering the perceived weakness of English batters against spin, it will be very surprising if Bangladesh decide to continue with any less than three genuine spinners in a slow pitch.
That will leave the starting XI with only two proper seamers. In such a circumstance, Soumya’s ability to bowl seam up might come in handy for Bangladesh.
Having a clear idea about the English brand of cricket, Bangladesh are expecting England to come hard at them right from the beginning. And they are more interested in focusing on the bright side of it.
“The message is not to panic. Understand that you will get hit off a good ball. That's their mentality. But they also give you the opportunity to take wickets. We must be calm to execute our skills and plans, and consider about every ball we bowl,” said Ottis Gibson, Bangladesh’ bowling coach, as quoted by ESPNcricinfo.
The shortest format of the game has been in action at the international level ever since February 17, 2005. Interestingly enough, in this significant time span of more than 16 years and 8 months, Bangladesh and England have not met each other even once in the T20I format.
The writer is currently studying at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka (IBA-DU).