By Kieran Wellington

  • Both teams have won one and lost one of their first two World Cup games
  • Bangladesh famously knocked England out of the last World Cup four years ago
  • Liam Plunkett is expected to regain his place in England’s bowling attack
CARDIFF, UK – England will look to reinstate Liam Plunkett into the side to regain the initiative against Bangladesh.

 

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Even this early in the group stages, this feels like a key game for Eoin Morgan’s men. The pre-tournament favourites suffered a shock defeat to Pakistan on Monday, a team who had lost their last 11 ODIs, and although the hosts didn’t play badly, Pakistan deserved the win.

With their closest rivals India, Australia and New Zealand currently holding a 100% win record, and with eight of the ten teams already off the mark, England can’t afford to slip to a second consecutive defeat.

Bangladesh’s performances so far have marked them out as the ‘banana skin’ team of the tournament. Mashrafe Mortaza’s men produced a brilliant performance with the bat to beat South Africa in their opening game and then despite being bowled out for 244 against New Zealand fought hard with the ball and only lost by two wickets.

The Bangladeshi fans have also produced a brilliant atmosphere during this World Cup, so expect an electric atmosphere in Cardiff come 10:30am on Saturday.

 

Ball has ruled over bat so far – expect that to change tomorrow

Against all pre-tournament predictions, ball has largely ruled over bat so far. Scores of 350+ were expected in almost every game with English grounds notorious for being flat and true in 50 over cricket, but instead fast bowling has had somewhat of a renaissance and most pitches have taken spin, too.

In the two games so far at Sophia Gardens, a combined run total of just 626 has been managed between the four teams, although admittedly the fact Sri Lanka, one of the weakest teams in the tournament, have played in both may skew these findings slightly.

But with such a small ground hosting one of the most destructive batting line-ups in ODI history, expect England to post a seventh consecutive score of more than 300. However, Bangladesh will have good memories of Cardiff, and have actually scored more hundreds at the ground than England.

Jason Roy remains England’s only century-getter at Sophia Gardens last summer against Australia (120), but Bangladesh boast three individual hundreds at the ground – Mohammad Ashraful hit the first ODI century ever at Sophia Gardens in 2005, and then Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah, who will both play tomorrow, hit their centuries in the same match vs New Zealand in the 2017 Champions Trophy.

 

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England missed Plunkett in the middle overs – they won’t make that mistake again

As in almost every team sport, a player left out of the side often becomes a better player by not taking the field. Having won the toss against Pakistan on Monday, Morgan’s tactics were clear from the outset: try and spook Pakistan with the short ball.

The same batting line-up, with just one exception, had been skittled for 105 just three days earlier with fierce short-pitched bowling being their obvious downfall.

So, perhaps logically, Morgan and the selectors opted for the quicker Mark Wood over the variations of Liam Plunkett, who statistically has been England’s best bowler in the middle phase of the game in ODI cricket for the last four years. Wood, to his credit, actually bowled well, eventually taking 2-53 from his 10-over allocation: comfortably England’s most economical quick.

But with Jofra Archer bowling too short, and Chris Woakes lacking his usual metronomic consistency, Morgan didn’t have his usual option of the reliable Plunkett to turn to.

What added to the England captain’s frustration was the fact Adil Rashid, his equally dependable spinner in the middle overs, known for breaking crucial partnerships, was battered for 43 runs by the Pakistani top order, and the Yorkshireman ended up only bowling half of his 10 overs.

With Ben Stokes also going wicketless from seven overs, England failed to seize the momentum in the field, especially given their awful fielding display, totally out of character with their normal performance levels, and surely just a one-off.

What Morgan can control though is the team selection. Plunkett has to come back into the side. The harder decision is who to replace him with. Archer has almost made himself undroppable with all the hype surrounding his pace and ability to take wickets at the top, although with such a heavy workload ahead of him, Morgan would be wise to rest him at least once during the group stages.

Perhaps now would be a good time to consider making that move. If Plunkett had bowled 10 fruitless overs for 79 runs, people would be calling for his head for this game.

What sort of message would the England setup be sending to Wood if they demoted him again after being England’s best bowler, bar Moeen Ali, against Pakistan?

They have to take big decisions during this tournament if they want to win it. Perhaps dropping Archer is the first – and most crucial.

 

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