T20 World Cup: Flexible Bangladesh are England’s biggest potential banana skin despite Windies rout

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 (AP)
(AP)

On Saturday against the West Indies, England enjoyed the perfect start to their T20 World Cup campaign.

They won the toss, bowled well to the world champions, who were not at their lethal best, and snaffled every chance that came their way. The chase of 56 was a formality.

A defining factor of the victory was Eoin Morgan’s adroit bowling changes. Morgan persisted with Moeen Ali’s off-spin against a left-hander-heavy top order, before Adil Rashid mopped up the Windies’ right-handed lower half. It was not rocket science, although the use of Tymal Mills as a battering ram through the middle overs was smart.

Against Bangladesh on Wednesday, all that might be slightly more difficult.

Five years on from a memorable, spiky tour of the country, England do not play Bangladesh nearly often enough (a short trip due this autumn was cancelled “mutually”), so direct experience against their opponents is in short supply. In fact, remarkably, this is the first meeting between the two teams in men’s T20s. However, the Tigers have played four games so far in the tournament, having come through the preliminary round, giving England plenty of intelligence.

Bangladesh should be becoming battle-hardened. The bad news for them is that two of those games have ended in defeat, to Scotland and Sri Lanka, with their only victories coming against Oman and Papua New Guinea. It is Bangladesh’s humbling by Scotland that has set up this group of death.

The defining factors of Bangladesh’s tournament so far — especially against Sri Lanka on Sunday — have been their extremely flexible batting order, which obsesses over complementary pairs (a left-hander and a right-hander together), and their love of bowling match-ups, even if it means their two star bowlers, Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman, have overs left unbowled.

Bangladesh, therefore, are unlikely to let Moeen and Rashid settle into spells against their favourable match-up. In the top six that batted against Sri Lanka, there were three righties and three lefties, and only once did they not have a complementary pair. The veteran Mushfiqur Rahim has batted at both No4 and No8 in the tournament as they shuffled their order around.

So Morgan will have to be at his brightest when managing England’s attack and their batting order, which showed its own flexibility when demoting Dawid Malan to No7 in the pursuit of quick runs against the Windies.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As this is a day game, Morgan will not have to worry about the dew in Abu Dhabi, although severe heat will be a factor. The toss will be vital, too; of the four matches to take place at the venue so far, only a one-sided affair between Sri Lanka and Ireland has been won by the team batting first. Reading conditions promptly will be crucial.

“No pitch is going to be the same,” Liam Livingstone said ahead of the game. “It is about assessing them as quickly as possible, and the teams that play the smartest cricket will be the ones that are in the mix come the end of the tournament.”

England are likely to be unchanged, although David Willey is an option if they would like an extra bowler, or left-armer in their attack. Mark Wood is unlikely to be available, having missed the opener after having an injection in his left ankle. England will not want to risk an asset that is prized all winter, so the earliest he is likely to appear is against Australia on Saturday.

Having beaten the West Indies so well, victory tomorrow would see England take another significant step towards the semi-finals. In the group of death, however, they cannot afford a slip up.

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