On a slow-turning pitch at Rose Bowl in Southampton, Bangladesh were convincing in their hard-fought and well-deserved victory by 62 runs against a determined Afghanistan side.
Batting first Bangladesh scored 262, on a pitch which had already been used for the Afghans close loss to India and where runs were hard to come by. This was largely thanks to a brilliant 83-run knock by Mushfiqur Rahim.
Afghanistan were bowled out for 200 in 47 overs, as the Bangladeshi spinners applied the stranglehold during the Afghan run chase.
The star of the show was the World’s best all-rounder, Shakib Al Hasan, who scored 51 with the bat, and then took five wickets for only 29 runs in a splendid display with the ball.
Bangladesh now sit fifth in the table, a point behind England in fourth, as their hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals remain alive.
It is Afghanistan’s spinners who have gained recognition on the international stage. In this encounter, Mujeeb Ur Rahman was the pick of them with an excellent 3-39.
In anticipation of Afghanistan throwing the new ball to the spinners, Bangladesh promoted the technical Liton Das to the top of the order in place of Soumya Sarkar.
Mujeeb however, who impressed throughout with his variety of deliveries, deceived Liton Das with a carrom ball, which was driven into the air and caught by Hashmatullah Shahidi at cover.
He returned for a spell in the middle overs, in which he claimed the most prized scalp of Shakib, by trapping him lbw. He then struck again shortly after, with another lbw, to take the wicket of Sarkar.
His bowling allowed the Afghans to exert some control in the middle overs and rein in the Bangladeshis’ free-flowing strokeplay.
Bangladesh struggled to score a boundary in a barren period of more than 12 overs, from the 25th to the 37th.
Nevertheless, the Man of the Moment for Bangladesh, Mushfiqur Rahim, dug his heels in and ran the hard yards in an innings of attrition and accumulation. His spirited 83 runs off 87 balls included only five boundaries.
In an innings in which Bangladesh had grinded out the runs, Mossadek Hossain finished with a flurry with 35 runs off 24 balls to propel the Tigers t0 262-7.
The Tigers might have missed a trick by starting with the seamers with the new ball. On a pitch like this, pace on the ball would aid the batsmen with the timing of their shots.
Although Mashrafe Mortaza and Mustafizur Rahman bowled tightly, the Afghan openers got off to a steady start, finishing the first powerplay 48-0.
Once the spinners were introduced into the attack, they did the decisive damage, both in the restriction of runs and taking wickets.
In his first over, Shakib got the breakthrough with the wicket of Rahmat Shah, with a shorter but quicker delivery which hurried onto the Afghan opener and found a leading edge, which looped up into the hands of Tamim at mid on.
With the Afghans needing to accelerate, the run rate began to nose dive. Hashmatullah Shahidi made a grindingly slow 11 runs from 31 balls, and Asghar Afghan did not fare much better with his 20 from 38 balls.
Captain Gulbadin Naib might have justified his recent promotion to the top of the order with his 47. However, Afghanistan needed one batsman to make a big score and bat throughout the innings.
When Shakib returned for his second spell, he ended that hope for Gulbadin. Two balls later he dismissed Mohammed Nabi for a duck.
Shakib struck again four overs later for his fourth wicket, as Asghar Afghan’s slog sweep was caught in the deep.
A stunning direct hit from Litton Das at midwicket that ran out Ikram Alikhil, who was perhaps too complacent in his slow approach to the crease, added to the woes for the Afghans.
Samiullah Shinwari and Najibullah Zadran put together a partnership of 56 off 43 balls, but this is what Afghanistan needed earlier. It begs the question why Najibullah was batting as low as number eight when his contribution was needed much higher up the order.
Super Shakib returned to the attack to dismiss Najibullah, who was stumped behind, to secure his five-wicket haul and seal the fate of the Afghans.
The Bangladeshi quicks polished off the tail, with Mustafizur Rahman taking two wickets and Mohammad Saifuddin the other, as Afghanistan were bowled all out for 200 in 47 overs.
The Afghans made a mistake by choosing to bowl first on a used pitch. Batting is their weaker department of the two, and thus they found it difficult to score on a tough pitch in their innings. Furthermore, their bowlers would have had a field day had they fielded in the second innings.
Their fielding also was poor, and according to their captain, allowed Bangladesh to score 30 or 40 more runs than they should have.
Afghanistan are still in search of that elusive victory at the 2019 Cricket World Cup, although they did come incredibly close against India. In their next fixture, they face Pakistan, who they defeated in a warm-up match prior to the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
Shakib Al Hasan became the second player to score fifty and take five wickets in a World Cup match, with the first being Yuvraj Singh against Ireland in 2011.
He has also become the third player, after Kapil Dev and Yuvraj Singh, to score a century and achieve a five-wicket haul in a World Cup campaign.
The all-rounder is now leading run scorer at the World Cup with 476 runs, after having registered his fifth score over 50 in the tournament.
In their quest to qualify for the semi-finals, Bangladesh will face India and Pakistan in their two remaining games.
With the form that they are in, they will believe that they can beat India. As for Pakistan, they have beaten them in their last four encounters.
Come the final week, Bangladesh being in the semis is a very real possibility.