It is that phase of the World Cup when teams are just getting into their groove and their strengths and weaknesses have started to come to the fore. And from this point of view, Saturday's English onslaught at the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff has certainly exposed the one-dimensional Bangladesh bowling attack. Despite all their talent, skills and fighting spirit, the Tigers lack an 'X-factor' in the bowling department and this was evident when Jason Roy and Company reached a mammoth 386/6 against this attack without much fuss.
At the start of day, it seemed like an excellent toss to win for Mashrafe Mortaza. A day before the match, Cardiff experienced a steady rainfall and both teams had to cancel their scheduled practice sessions. So, coming into this fixture, the wicket was expected to have some underneath moisture and by bowling first, Bangladesh were looking to utilise that dampness.
However, raising many eyebrows, they started proceedings with the left-arm spin of Shakib Al Hasan.
Well, with two right-handers at the crease, who can be vulnerable against spin early, one may consider this move as a proactive one but here, the author strongly believes that Bangladesh missed a trick by not giving the new ball to Mustafizur Rahman, their premier seamer straightway.
Despite Shakib's success in the previous two games against South Africa and New Zealand, at the Sophia Gardens, the conditions were more suited for the seam bowlers, especially with the new ball. In fact, along with Shakib, at the other end, skipper Mortaza brought himself on whereas the strike-bowler Mustafizur had to wait till the 11th over to get a chance to bowl on that greenish pitch.
Quite inexplicably, he was the fourth bowler to be introduced into the attack. Even the youngster like Mohammad Saifuddin was given the ball early than the much experienced Mustafizur.
In hindsight, the English openers handled the situation very professionally. Both Roy and Jonny Bairstow knew that the new ball poses the main threat. Hence, they were very circumspect in their approach early in the innings. The duo played conservative cricket to get used to the surface and scored just 15 runs in first five overs.
But when they got their eyes in, no Bangladeshi bowler seemed to have the skill to tame them.
By the end of the 15th over, the moisture was gone and the track turned out to be a batting paradise. Both Roy and Bairstow got a start, and the platform was set for England to post a huge score. Also, by that time the pair had already played out seven overs of Shakib. He was economical but Bangladesh wanted him to get early breakthroughs, which the left-armer couldn't provide as England reached 101 for no loss.
For Mashrafe, at that juncture of the game, the toss advantage was not there anymore. So, he had to look for wicket-taking options. But on wickets like Cardiff, which do not turn, there aren't many strike bowlers in this Bangladesh attack.
Without a mainstream wrist-spinner in the squad, the 'Tigers' do not pose much of a threat as a bowling unit, especially in the middle overs. Medium-pacer Mashrafe and Saifuddin, as well as off-spinner Mehidy Hasan and Mosaddek Hossain, are decent but one should not expect them to run through batting line-ups consistently on English pitches. At best, they can bowl accurately and have a check on opposition's run-rate. But on Saturday, most of them had a bad day at the office. And with the semi-new ball, Mustafizur failed to get the kind of impact that we generally expect of him.
As a result, almost all the England batsmen almost had a walk in the park and they batted Bangladesh out of the match.
It is unfortunate that pacer Rubel Hossain, who troubled the Indian middle-order in a recent warm-up fixture and looked like the best Bangladeshi seamer on the park, is yet to play a game in this World Cup. He is the fastest bowler in the squad and the team management has to find a way to accommodate Rubel in the playing XI next time, when they will take on Sri Lanka at Bristol on 11 June.