Bangladesh earned a lot of praise from the cricket fraternity on Thursday for putting up a gutsy effort in a stiff run chase against Australia at Trent Bridge. In pursuit of a mammoth 382 to keep a realistic hope for a semi-final spot alive, the Tigers took the game to the wire on a belter of a surface. Their experienced batting line-up properly tested the depth in quality and the skills of the Aussie attack before eventually falling 48 runs short of the target.
Prior to this game, not many people would have expected Bangladesh to score their highest ODI total — 333 — against an attack which had the likes of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. And let's not forget that their in-form batsman, Shakib Al Hasan, contributed only 41 to this total. Yet, Bangladesh were in the game till the 44-45th over, which, in many ways, was a remarkable achievement.
Nevertheless, if we closely look at the batting scorecard of the Tigers, especially the strike-rate part of it, one can understand that most of their batsmen had a conservative approach in modern-day terms, despite getting their eye in and spending some significant amount of time at the crease. In an almost must-win fixture, when the asking rate is more than 7.5 right from the ball one, nobody in the Bangladesh line-up had a strike-rate of over 140.
Mahmudullah topped the list by striking at 138 runs per 100 balls. The next best was Soumya Sarkar with 125, but he only lasted eight balls for his 10 runs. Senior pros like Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim who played 74 and 97 balls respectively during their innings, registered disappointing strike-rates of 83.78 and 105.15 — which were clearly not adequate in the context of this run-chase.
It was understandable that the early wicket of Sarkar did not help their cause in the Powerplay. He is their designated aggressor, who plays those lofty shots in the first 10 overs to get things going. Also, not allowing Starc and Cummins to strike with the new ball was perhaps an important part of their gameplan as well. So, from that point of view, following the early setback, Tamim and Shakib did manage to steady the ship as Bangladesh reached 53 for one after in the first Powerplay.
For the batsmen, after getting that start, in ideal circumstances, the plan would have been crystal clear – go aggressive against Australia's back-up bowling options, which has been the weak link of the defending champions in this World Cup. On a true batting wicket, fetching 7-8 runs per over against the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa and Glenn Maxwell is not a stiff ask by any means.
However, much to the surprise of many, both Shakib and Tamim did not go hard at them and allowed their medium pacers to get into the groove. Someone like Coulter-Nile bowled five overs in his first spell and only went for 21 runs. Whereas Stoinis' initial spell consisted of four overs. He gave away 24 runs and also took the prized scalp of Shakib.
In comparison, the Bangladesh batsmen were far more aggressive against spin. They used their feet beautifully to counter the slow bowlers. However, the Aussie skipper was quick to notice it and bowled only 12 overs of spin in the innings.
In fact, later in the run-chase, when the Mushfiqur-Mahmudullah partnership was holding the fort for Bangladesh, they were very much in contention, needing 170 odd runs in the last 15 overs with six wickets still in hand. And a high scoring venue like Trent Bridge was ideal to go for that late onslaught.
However, despite a few big shots by Mahmudullah, Bangladesh failed to generate any sort of momentum in those death overs. As a result, the asking rate rapidly kept creeping. Mushfiqur tried his best to go after the bowling with a few attempted scoops and horizontal bat shots, but at that point, they needed a batsman with muscle power of someone like Hardik Pandya or Jos Buttler, who is capable of providing those stand and deliver power hits rather than these players who tried to use the pace of the bowlers.
Unfortunately, this Bangladesh team lacks a power-hitter of such calibre. There is hardly anyone in this team who can come in towards the end and score quick-fire 40-50 runs with a 200 plus strike-rate on a consistent basis. Recently in a one-off innings in Ireland, Mosaddek Hossain played a similar sort of a knock, but that was scored on a smallish ground and against a second-string West Indies attack.
Not having a genuine power-player is a long-standing problem for Bangladesh. In the past, we had seen players like Aftab Ahmed or Ziaur Rahman, who could hit the ball big, burst onto the scene, but they faded away rather quickly. Actually, the current Bangladesh selectors and team management have never invested on power-hitters or perhaps judging from the lack of indigenous big hitters in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), it seems they don't have many quality options to choose from.
Going forward, along with finding an "X-factor" in the bowling department, Bangladesh think-tank should try to find power-hitters on priority. Next year, the World T20 will be in Australia and on those big grounds, without enough players who can clear the fence on a frequent basis, their batting will be exposed.