After having lost all their six matches of the 2019 World Cup, Afghanistan is more or less out of the tournament. In their last three games, the Gulbadin Naib-captained team have nothing, but pride to play for. However, the last game against India at the Rose Bowl in Southampton turned out to be a nail-biting affair. The Afghans lost the game by just 11 runs and garnered a lot of praises from the world.
At the same venue, they are next scheduled to play Bangladesh on June 24. Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes says he is trying to keep the pressure off his players as he targets a World Cup semi-final berth. The Mashrafe Mortaza-led side have two victories from six league games and need to win their remaining three matches to have a realistic chance of making the final four.
On paper their next game, against Afghanistan in Southampton on Monday, is easily winnable but the Afghans came close to shocking India on the same ground on Saturday and cannot be underestimated. Sri Lanka beat hosts England at Headingley on Friday to revive their hopes of reaching the last four, at the same time boosting Bangladesh’s chances.
“If you think too hard about it being do-or-die then you can put too much pressure on yourself,” said former England wicketkeeper-batsman Rhodes. “So I’ll be trying to take a little bit of that pressure off the team. They know the importance of the game, but my job is to make sure we concentrate on the game, and we do some smart things, and we play well because, if we play well, we’ll have a good chance of winning.”
They are a tough bunch of cricketers
Bangladesh have beaten South Africa and the West Indies, with their batsmen racking up scores of 300-plus in both encounters. Unfancied Afghanistan thumped Bangladesh in last year’s Asia Cup although Bangladesh avenged their loss later in the tournament.
“We can definitely draw on the experience in the Asia Cup. It was a wonderfully close tournament and we were almost able to win the final,” said Rhodes, whose team came up short against India. “If you really break it down and we do win these matches coming up, we only need five games and we’ve won the World Cup. The first challenge and the first step is Afghanistan. They’re a tough team. They’re a tough bunch of cricketers. They really fought hard against India.”