Bangladesh v Afghanistan could well become a more regular fixture in the game in the future than it is now. They don’t have a lot of encounters coming up in the next 12 months, but in the long-term, they could well meet more frequently, on the big stage, given how they have developed as teams – and have a rivalry going too – in the past few years.
The two sides have gone for youth over experience in this tri-series, but with mixed results. It’s experience that has made the difference for Afghanistan, though, as Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman have all played pivotal roles in Afghanistan’s two wins. The bad news for Afghanistan is that Rashid, who hasn’t fully recovered from the hamstring injury he picked up in the last match, is uncertain for the final. The day before the game, Rashid conceded that the physio has a lot of work to do with him, and as things stand, he is not more than a 50% chance.
But Bangladesh have no reason to let their guard down in case Rashid doesn’t make it. Among the youngsters, the likes of Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Fareed Ahmad are solid players, with the ability to swing things Afghanistan’s way. While Zazai is a relatively known entity, Gurbaz’s stroke play has been a revelation, and Fareed has shown plenty of promise with the new ball.
For the home side, Shakib Al Hasan has had a stellar tournament, while Mahmudullah is the team’s leading run-scorer and Mohammad Saifuddin their top wicket-taker. Afif Hossain, among the newbies, has won a match single handedly, but someone like Najmul Hossain hasn’t done much in the tournament so far.
The home side can bank on their experience of playing at the Shere Bangla National Stadium, although it hasn’t been a happy venue for them in multi-team tournaments, as they have lost all their finals here to date. Fans are expected to flock to the stadium despite it being the middle of the week – and there’s a forecast for rain – which could add to the pressure of having not won a final at the venue. For Afghanistan, who were until recently on a record 12-match winning streak, successive defeats leading into the final would have had a chastening effect, but they would want to quickly pick themselves up, and what better occasion to do it than this?
Bangladesh: WWLWL (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Bangladesh’s poor showings in T20Is has made the selectors turn to Shafiul Islam once again, who has played just 14 games in the format in more than nine years. If Shafiul and the rest of the bowling attack can keep the Afghanistan batsmen quiet, Bangladesh have a good chance. He has taken four wickets in two games, and shown that he can still swing the new ball considerably.
Gulbadin Naib hasn’t quite quite come to the party – just 11 runs and three wickets in the series – especially given that he may have had a point to prove in his first appearance since losing the ODI captaincy, but he is certainly capable of turning things around with both bat and ball, and Afghanistan would want that to happen in the final.
Doubts over Rashid’s fitness, after he aggravated a hamstring injury by continuing to bowl in the last match, mean that slow left -arm spinner Sharafuddin Ashraf, who hasn’t played all tournament, is suddenly in contention.
Afghanistan (probable): 1 Hazratullah Zazai, 2 Rahmanullah Gurbaz, 3 Asghar Afghan, 4 Najibullah Zadran, 5 Mohammad Nabi, 6 Shafiqullah, 7 Gulbadin Naib, 8 Rashid Khan/Sharafuddin Ashraf, 9 Karim Janat, 10 Naveen-ul-Haq, 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Coach Russell Domingo hinted that Bangladesh could look to play as many as four seamers in the final, which would mean one of their eight batsmen will have to sit out. It, however, looks unlikely given the inconsistency of the batsmen.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Liton Das, 2 Najmul Hossain, 3 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Mahmudullah, 6 Sabbir Rahman, 7 Mosaddek Hossain, 8 Afif Hossain, 9 Mohammad Saifuddin, 10 Shafiul Islam, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Pitch and conditions
Gamini Silva has kept a shade of grass on the Shere Bangla National Stadium pitch for the final. In night games over the last two years, teams batting first and second and have won twice each. There’s also the chance of a shower or two in Dhaka on Tuesday.
Stats that matter
Shakib became the fourth bowler to reach 350 T20 wickets in the last game against Afghanistan, joining Dwayne Bravo to become the second cricketer to score more than 4500 runs and take 350 wickets in the format.
Sabbir Rahman is 54 runs short of reaching 1000 T20I runs.
In eight tournament finals at Shere Bangla National Stadium, the sides batting first have won on three occasions.
“The main reason to come back to bowl [in the previous game], was that I wanted to know the severity of the injury. The physio and coaches didn’t want me to bowl. I was okay with the first two overs but after going for a run, it got worse. Hopefully, it will be okay for tomorrow. Physio will have a lot of work to do.”
Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan on his hamstring injury.