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Shaky Bangladesh aim to dominate promising Afghanistan
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Shaky Bangladesh aim to dominate promising Afghanistan

Bangladesh possess a realistic chance of qualifying for the semi-finals as they head into the encounter against the lowest ranked team in the points table Afghanistan on Monday at Southampton.

The Tigers have validated their steep rise in world cricket over the past few years by exhibiting some marvellous performances against the likes of South Africa and the West Indies.

Even the losses incurred by Mashrafe Mortaza's men display a valiant fighting spirit and aggressive approach to take the game till the very end.

Bangladesh have been helped by the fact their senior pros have all stepped in to lead a terrific batting charge in almost all of the games with primarily Shakib Al Hasan scoring the bulk of the runs for his side.

They even came close to challenging Australia's mammoth total of 381 in the previous match before losing a cluster of wickets stemming the momentum of the chasing team.

The stakes are high for Bangladesh as they compete with Afghanistan in a must-win game to revive any hopes of making it into the top four and they would be wary of not repeating their frequent bowling lapses witnessed in the last couple of weeks.

Afghanistan, meanwhile, had a World Cup campaign to forget up until their narrow loss to cricketing superpower India at the Rose Bowl.

A renewed sense of self-belief and motivation will be instilled among the players, as the cornered Afghanistan now only have pride to play for.

Yet to register a maiden win in this tournament, Afghanistan will take a lot of heart from their spin stocks choking the Indian batsmen for runs.

The Afghan batting line-up, though, has been fraught with the lingering inability to apply themselves on the crease for longer periods of time.

Bangladesh pace attack a huge worry

Time and again, it has been the spinners - Shakib, Mehidy Hasan and to an extent Mosaddek Hossain - who have been successful in strangling the opposing batsmen to afford Bangladesh a respectable position.

Therefore, the major concern for the team management is the off colour pace attack that has been unable to either contain runs or eke out wickets at crucial intervals of the game.

With conditions expected to be conducive to spin, the Southampton pitch might play into the strengths of the Bangladesh side as they would be inclined to drop Rubel Hossain, who had a horrid day out in the middle against Australia, in place of another spinner in the team.

Spotlight on Mohammad Nabi

Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan's veteran all-rounder, finally experienced a resurgence in batting form as he led a miraculous fightback to almost give his side a historic victory over India.

Coming into his own with a mix of attacking strokes and effortless dabbles for singles and doubles, Nabi looked in phenomenal touch against the tournament favourites before holing out to long-on off Mohammed Shami's full delivery in the final over.

He is expected to play a huge role in the Afghan line-up as he enters into the clash against Bangladesh with vital runs under his belt and consistent bowling performances.

Squads

Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (c), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Ikram Ali Khil (wk)

Bangladesh: Mashrafe Mortaza (c), Liton Das (wk), Abu Jayed, Mahmudullah, Mehidy Hasan, Mohammad Mithun (wk), Mohammad Saifuddin, Mosaddek Hossain, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Tamim Iqbal