POOL A | Thursday 26 February | Melbourne | 05:30
Australia’s premier sporting venue hosts another all-Asian clash as supposed minnows Bangladesh meet a struggling Sri Lankan outfit. The complexion of Pool A is beginning to take shape, Bangladesh claiming third-place by virtue of a washout with Sri Lanka a mere point behind. If Bangladesh were to claim victory here it would put them firmly in the driving seat for a place in the quarter-finals. Their opponents will be looking to get their World Cup campaign back on track following a scare against Afghanistan. Luckily for both, England’s poor performance at the tournament means a spot in the knockout stage is not beyond the reach of either nation.
To Win Match
Sri Lanka 2/9
Controversy has struck the Bangladeshi camp as pace bowler Al-Amin Hossain has been sent home for breaching team curfew. Despite the side denying any links to corruption, the fact that they were informed of Hossain’s absence by the ACSU (Anti-Corruption and Security Unit) does point towards a more serious matter. This is, of course, pure speculation but one does not simply get ejected from a world tournament for forgetting the time. Shafiul Islam has been called up as Hossain’s replacement. The side will probably be pleased with Saturday’s washout of their scheduled fixture with Australia, the point gleaned from the no result almost certainly one more than they were likely to get. Given England’s wretched campaign, Bangladesh will fancy their chances for quarter-final qualification. Indeed, they may only be required to beat Scotland to book their place in the knockout stage but will sense the chance of coup against a shaken Sri Lankan contingent. It will be Bangladesh’s first match at a major Australian venue and the likes of Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim will certainly relish the contest.
Sri Lanka have had a poor start to the competition and will need to improve significantly if they wish to keep their proud tournament history intact. They very nearly slumped to an upset against Associate nation Afghanistan after another sloppy day in the field was followed by a top order collapse. Stalwart Mahela Jayawardene combined with captain Angelo Mathews to form a partnership in the middle-order that took the game away from the minnows, but Sri Lanka were still fortunate in Afghanistan missing three run out opportunities. This performance came following a lacklustre display against New Zealand that saw the subcontinent side completely outplayed. Getting over the line against Afghanistan, especially considering that it was a pressure situation, will be a huge relief. However, Sri Lanka still have a long way to go before they can begin preparing for the knockout stage. Strangely, Sri Lanka were 2014’s form side. They have dropped off drastically in recent months, which can perhaps be partly attributed to the fact that Lasith Malinga is not quite his old self following a return from injury.
The mammoth MCG plays host to this important Pool A clash and one expects that Bangladesh’s inexperience at such a ground may be offset by their sheer excitement. The toss seems an important one to win given the fact that both Australia and India racked up 300+ totals in the first innings of the two World Cup clashes hosted at the ground so far, both sides defending their scores comfortably. As usual, a bit of extra pace and bounce will keep the seamers interested and discipline in that area will be key. As yet, no rain is forecast.
VERDICT: Bangladesh 33/10
With Bangladesh obvious outsiders, you get a very nice price for the upset. The Bangladeshis disposed of Afghanistan with relative ease and are often underestimated, especially against fellow Asian contenders. They finished runners-up in the 2012 Asia Cup, defeating India and Sri Lanka on the way to the final. Their campaign in the 2014 Asia Cup was poor and they lost 3-0 in a home ODI series with their opponents, but they have looked organised and motivated recently. Sri Lanka have looked the opposite and something tells me they'll lose us money. It will take something special from Bangladesh to win here but the risk is worth the reward.