Bangladesh take on Afghanistan for one-off Test, beginning today at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium with an aim to continue a rare winning run in this format.
In their previous Test, the Tigers beat Ireland by seven wickets and another victory would give them a consecutive second Test victory for the first time since 2018 when they beat West Indies by 2-0 at home.
The task should be easier, considering Afghanistan have no Rashid Khan in their bowling attack due to injury and also they fielded a side that lacked experience. However the visitors are bolstered with many talented spinners who showed their credential in the shorter format of the cricket.
But longer format game is a different ball game. Moreover Afghanistan would play this Test after two years gap since their last Test against Zimbabwe in 2021.
Considering all these factors, Bangladesh looked outright favourite to win the Test. But again the past definitely would haunt them.
In the only game between the two sides in this format, Afghanistan beat Bangladesh by 224 runs, thanks to an 11-wicket haul of Rashid Khan. That was Afghanistan's only second Test in their history. Afghanistan eked out the victory despite the consistent rain which ate up most of the overs of that Test. Bangladesh prepared a sporting pitch to give them the best chance to win the Test and also enhance their skill, playing on this wicket regularly.
Tigers head coach Chandika Hathurusingha said because of the heat the pitch would deteriorate later to give the spinners an edge.
According to him, it’s the sporting wicket which would help all eventually. It’s the same kind of wicket that was used against Ireland.
"Grass is green because of the rain the last few days. So, I have seen green wickets here before. We played against Ireland on a green wicket. We have fast bowlers. So, we need to give them a condition that suits their strength," Hathurusingha said.
"We have good spinners as well. So, this game is only starting as a green wicket. You know that with this heat it'll deteriorate very quickly, and then it'll help the spinners in the latter parts of the game. So, I think this pitch is a good sporting wicket for everybody, the batter, bowlers - fast bowlers and spinners. So, I'd like to see a good contest."
The head coach further said they want to continue the brand of cricket they played against Ireland.
"As we discussed, before that Ireland series, we wanted to play a certain brand of cricket, regardless of the result. So yes, our endgame is to get results, but we wanted to understand how our skill set last five days in different conditions, challenging us to play in a certain way."
Liton Das who would lead the side in this Test in absence of Shakib Al Hasan said they want to test their capability on green wicket.
"It's quite normal to play on normal even wicket against a team like this. Mirpur always has had turning wickets when we played here. So, our challenge will be how to play better on grassy wicket and how to prolong our innings," Liton said.
Bangladesh will miss the service of Shakib Al Hasan who could give them the cushion of an extra bowler and an extra batter.
There is also concern over opener Tamim Iqbal and fast bowler Taskin Ahmed's fitness. Hathurusingha said they will take the decision on the duo later.
Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi was positive in his approach. He in fact sought the inspiration from 2019 when his side won the only Test between the two teams.
Even though there is no Rashid this time, Shahidi felt no pressure.
"It will be challenging we all know that Rashid is one of the main bowler in our team. He did very well in the past in Test matches. Still we have another option like wrist spinners and I believe they will perform," Shahidi said.
Since their elevation in the elite format of cricket in 2018, Afghanistan won three matches out of six. Those three victories came against the teams like Ireland, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
In contrary, Bangladesh's Test statistics is utterly disappointing. After playing 137 matches, they won just 17 and lost a staggering number of 102 matches. The rest of the 18 matches ended in a draw, most of which came, thanks to rain.
Bangladesh: Liton Das (Captain), Tamim Iqbal, Zakir Hasan, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Mominul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Taijul Islam, Syed Khaled Ahmed, Ebadot Hossain Chowdhury, Taskin Ahmed, Shoriful Islam, Mahmudul Hasan Joy, Shahadat Hossain Dipu, Mushfik Hasan.
Afghanistan: Hashmatullah Shahidi (C), Rahmat Shah (VC), Afsar Zazai (WK), Ikram Alikhail (WK), Ibrahim Zadran, Abdul Malik, Baheer Shah, Nasir Jamal, Karim Janat, Zahir Khan, Izharulhaq Naweed, Hamza Hotak, Ibrahim Abdulrahimzai, Yamin Ahmadzai and Nijat Masoud.