After all the anticipations, months of waiting, predictions and expectations, the Zimbabwe test tour just "petered" out. We lost the first one, didn't get to play much in the second, and didn't do any justice to the little opportunities we got. So, what does a Bangladesh cricket fan look forward to now?
The U-19 plate championship, of course, what else? Before the hemorrhaging of the Zimbabwe ODI series begins, let's indulge in this moment of oracl-ing. After all, the younger boys didn't drop any of the last four matches, however unimpressive some of the wins might have been. So, I stick my neck out once again in predictions, since one has to be brave in peeking into the future. What's the point of having a proverbial 20/20 hindsight? apologies to Herr Doctor Z here.
The Aussies, the mighty Aussies! Even their kids are so good at this game! They are physically and mentally strong, resilient under pressure, and, strong in finish. Here are certain observations in light of their performance so far in this tournament:
Their bowlers are not as good as their batsmen this time. I think that is the inherent weakness of this team. In the first match, Canada lasted more than 45 overs with them, and the aussie bowlers dished out an astonishing 34 extra runs in the match. It took the ever-powerful Aussies 35 overs to bowl out the lowly PNG. On the fateful February 22 match, the Scots did go down for the record braking 22, but not before lasting the 22.3 overs. Australia was not able to bowl out Nepal or Ireland in the allotted 50 overs.
The Aussie bowling is fair, but not lethal. They should have put Gary Putland early on. Starting from their 3rd game against Sri Lanka, Gary has made up for some missing teeth in the department. A left arm fast medium, he has already taken their top position with 11 wickets. He is the danger man for Bangladesh in the final. The right arm fast-medium Cameron Huckett and sporadic leg-break googly Joshua Mangan are also formidable match-winners. They have already proven themselves.
Australian batting depended more on Theo Doropoulos than the skipper-opener Tim Paine. Actually, Doropoulos is their best man. Their top order performed satisfactorily so far. As should be expected, Crosthwaite, Harrison, Paine and Doropoulos scored just about 62% of all runs scored (1030). Henrique is a fine alrounder, with Rajkumaran Beadle being the on again - off again type. The lower order showed admirable resiliency under pressure in the game against Zimbabwe. However, it will be a big blow to their confidence if Bangladesh is able to pick up Doropoulos' wicket early. He is our danger man in Aussie batting.
Enamul Jr., our SLA, is in top form right now with the tournament's 2nd highest 17 wickets to his name. With Talha being mostly absent, he has been well-supported by Nazmul and Nadif. If Talha is able to play the final, then we will definitely go in with a class better bowling side.
Batting....Ahhhh... Batting. Bangladesh batting, I feel a headache coming on. The memories, oh the memories, pain, frustration, anger, nausea. In all seriousness, we have not had a good batting session in the whole tournament regardless of result. The team barely crossed the 200-run mark only once, in the first match against New Zealand. We don't have any mammoth show-off type innings like the Indian's 425 against Scotland, or the Australian 340 against Ireland. Even Ireland had a slog session of 329 runs against Uganda. Consequentially, Nafis, while playing a fine fiddle with the willow, is only number 10 on the top hitter's list for the tournament.
For the rest, Naeem has been consistent in throwing his wicket away. Aftab, from whom we expect to see a much better show, has been very sporadic. He still needs to learn to settle down. He has shown amateurish ignorance about how to pace himself in building a good innings. In this regard, the skipper, Ashiqur, fares better than the rest. A sensible innings from just 3 of the top six should create enough worries for the Aussies. Nafis, unfortunately, has been a big disappointment on big matches in the past. If he can hang on, supported by 2 or 3 more batsmen on the other end, we should be able to post or defend a fighting total.
The Australian fielding has been consistently good throughout the tournament. Bangladesh fielding had a shiny performance in the last game going in to the final. Both teams have already played against the common opponents Scotland, Canada and Ireland. The differences in their respective results do not show any conclusive evidence of one's advantage over the other. We have two nicely matched competitors for the final.
In my most unscientific calculation, I give our team a 49.5 and the Aussies 50.5. This scoring will look real bad if Nafis and company fails to perform with the bat. Well, Nafis, how would you like to take an all-expenses paid trip to Zimbabwe? Oh yes, it's a lovely country, a bit cloudy though, this time of the year. But look at it this way, you may be able to play cricket while you are there. How about it, eh?