Bangladesh will go into third and final one-dayer against Afghanistan in Mirpur today with plenty to play for as they have series and pride at stake.
The Tigers, considered a much superior side than their South Asian neighbours, so far could not play up to their potential and could have lost the series already.
Though they could beat Afghanistan by seven runs in the opening match, it came after a serious hiccup as Afghans controlled the proceedings only to throw it away in the end.
The visitors, who have now two wins against Bangladesh in four matches, were not ready to make the same mistake in the second match, when they had the home side dismissed for a meagre 208 runs.
Sakib al Hasan had nearly caused another heart-break with yet another superlative performance that earned him 4-47 but Afghan lower-order rode on a 107-run partnership from Asghar Stanikzai and Mohammad Nabi to script a two-wicket win.
It condemned Bangladesh to their 211th defeat in a game they were actually looking for 100th win.
Bangladesh have now chance to grab the elusive win, which will also ensure their sixth consecutive series win and keep their pride intact against an opponent considered not more than a minnow.
Bangladesh also need to win to regain their confidence ahead of more serious engagement against England, who should be in town by the time the match starts at 2:30pm at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium today.
Bangladesh have only themselves to blame for putting them in such a tricky situation as they batted casually in both the two matches and at times failed to give Afghan bowlers enough respect.
Skipper Mashrafee bin Muratza, however, refuted the allegation and claimed they were always serious about the series and its outcome.
‘The thing that they are an associate nation didn’t ever come to my head,’ Masharfee told reporters ahead of series decider. ‘We believed that they are a strong team. Their bowling is very strong.’
‘Afghanistan in the last one year wherever they played, they have tried to play their best cricket and they are playing well everywhere.’
Mashrafee refused to blame the wicket of the second game that turned out to be an excuse for Tigers as their stroke makers failed to adjust in the slow surface and threw their wickets out of frustration.
‘I have no complaints,’ said Mashrafee. ‘In the first match we got the wicket that we wanted but despite that we couldn’t score well. In the second match, because of the rain, the wicket was really damp and slow and there was turn and then in the second half there was not much turn but I still feel we bowled well,’ he said.
‘Till now the wicket seems good. Hopefully it won’t change tomorrow [today],’
Bangladesh included left-arm spinner Mosharraf Hossain to bolster their spin attack as left-arm spinner Taijul Islam failed to provide the required support to Sakib, the best bowler for Tigers in the series so far.
Pace bowler Shafiul Islam also has a chance to be included but not perhaps at the expense of Taskin Ahmed, who, despite his erratic bowling in the series, is still a home favouirte.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Cricket