Crunch time for team Tigers

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Crunch time for team Tigers Saleque Sufi

All eyes of ardent Bangladeshi cricket admirers and sports enthusiasts in Bangladesh and wherever they are will remain glued to whatever media that can be accessed from 3:30 PM (BST) today.

Bangladesh cricket team will launch its preparatory mission for ICC Champions trophy 2017 with its first match of Tri Nation Series against host Ireland.

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Many will tend to tag Bangladesh firm favorites for making winning start considering its recent fabulous form against much stronger oppositions. But playing an emerging home team of experienced professional cricketers in an ODI format can always be tricky.

By any consideration it will not be a cake walk though Bangladesh must be well prepared by now after spending few very useful weeks in English Conditions.

The last time both team played against each other was in Bangladesh in ICC World Cup which Bangladesh won by 27 runs through successfully defending a score of 205. But in 6 years since then circumstances changed a lot.

Bangladesh is altogether a different opponent now a days whitewashing Zimbabwe and New Zealand on a couple of occasions and winning ODI series against Pakistan, India, and South Africa. Bangladesh also won ODI against England and Sri Lanka in recent times. They are now ranked 7th just behind Sri Lanka in ICC ODI ranking.

They also competed admirably against the third team of the series New Zealand at their backyard although getting white washed. However, as it has been panned out Bangladesh winning four or at least three of the matches would earn them an assured place for playing in the ICC World cup 2019 as the 6th ranked team above Sri Lanka.

It will also give them enormous confidence in the Champions trophy next month where they are grouped with England, Australia and New Zealand.

Bangladesh has five very experienced top quality players in Mashrafe, Tamim, Mushfiqur, Shakib and Mahmudullah as nucleus. In recent time, some brilliant youngsters like Soumya, Sabbir, Mustafiz, Mosaddek, Taskin and Mustafiz have given them dynamism and winning edge.

The team has few other quality players like Kayes, Rubel, Shafiul and Nasir Hossain giving them a reliable bench strength to fall back upon. Charismatic captain Mashrafe has to sit out the first match being suspended for a match for slow over rates in previous matches. Shakib will lead instead.

On the other hand, Ireland is not a mere push over and in their backyard can definitely spring surprises. Since the teams last met, they won 23 of their last 60 ODI matches.

Though Afghanistan has surpassed them as strongest associate nation yet they are reasonably strong. It will be a huge mistake taking them lightly. Most of the Irish players have years of playing experience in English counties.

Many have more than 50 ODI experiences. Ed Joyce, William Porterfield, Paul Stirling and Kevin and Neil O’Brien forms the backbone of the team. Tim Murtagh and George Dockrell are budding talents.

While Bangladesh has a very important issue of pushing for a promotion in the ranking, a good show by Ireland makes its achieving full ICC membership much stronger.

Bangladesh appears to be a complete side now with quality batting, world class all-rounders, match winning bowlers (pace and spin) and athletic fielders.

Ireland may not compete that well on players to player basis. But they have home advantage and can definitely make a match of it. There will definitely be a healthy contest and Bangladesh has to have all guns blazing to win.

Bangladesh (Probable XI):

Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir Rahman, Shakib Al Hasan (capt), Mosaddek Hossain, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mahmudullah, Mehedi Hasan, Rubel Hossain , Taskin Ahmed,and Mustafizur Rahman.

Unfortunately, there won’t be room for Kayes and Nasir Hussain at least in the first match unless there is a last minute injury. There may be thoughts of playing Shafiul ahead of Taskin or Rubel in absence of Mashrafe for taking advantage of new ball swing.

Ireland plays pace better than spin. Mehedi, Shakib and even Mahmudullah may create issues in this regard.

Ireland (probable XI): Ed Joyce, Paul Stirling, William Porterfield (capt), Andy Balbirnie, Neil O’Brien (wk.), Gary Wilson, Kevin O’Brien, George Dockrell, Barry McCarthy, Tim Murtagh, and Peter Chase.