Dhaka – Bangladesh will play unpredictable Pakistan in a virtual semifinal of the 14th Asia Cup in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday eying to reach the final.The Super-Four stage match of the six-nation tournament will begin at5:30pmBangladesh time and the winner of the game will be India’s opponents in the final onSeptember 28.
Bangladesh team head coach Steve Rhodes said, “Pakistan are a tough cricketing nation… and they can very much bounce back. I am trying to not give our tactics away.”
Mustafizur’s last-over heroics handed Bangladesh the win against Afghanistan, and bowling in the last five overs is fast becoming his biggest strength. In the last three years, he has been one of only two bowlers to have an economy rate of under six per over during that period in ODIs.
The Tigers are dangerous against any side with bowling from Mustafiz as his skilled mix of slower balls, yorkers and bouncers troubles big-hitters. Captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and Mehidy Hasan Miraz often keep it tight in the first Power-play while Mustafizur, Shakib Al Hasan and Rubel Hossain keep the run-rate down in the middle.
But Bangladesh’s bowling unit strength becomes worthwhile only when the batsmen post at least a competitive total.
Liton Kumar Das’ 41 would be encouraging for the team management but his opening partner in the last three games, Nazmul Hossain Shanto, has made a poor start to his ODI career with just 20 runs.
As a result, Imrul Kayes, who made 72 batting at number six in the previous game, for the first time in his career, may be sent to number three with Mohammad Mithun reverting back to number five. It would mean they have two senior batsmen in Imrul and Shakib in the top four, while in-form Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad have the capability to stop a batting collapse or, in a better situation, go after the bowling in the last 10 overs.
Pakistan’s ODI set-up with Mohammad Amir wicket-less in his last six ODIs has been surprising, while Hasan Ali, the only quick bowler picked in every game in the Asia Cup, has taken three wickets at 51.66 each. Shadab Khan therefore has to take up responsibilities against a Bangladesh batting line-up that can be susceptible against legspin.
Pakistan would also have to pick up their fielding; having dropped too many catches in their last two matches against Afghanistan (five) and India (three). On top of these bowling and fielding woes, Pakistan also needs runs from three batsmen among their regular top six.
Fakhar Zaman, who made a record 210 against Zimbabwe in July, has so far made just 55 runs in the tournament. Captain Sarfraz Ahmed and Asif Ali have made 58 and 46 respectively in the four matches so far. Runs have mostly come from Shoaib Malik, Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq, but against Bangladesh’s efficient bowling line-up they cannot afford a top-order collapse or a poor finish.
Shoaib Malik has been Pakistan’s main scorer in the tournament, having made 181 runs in four matches. He would also want to improve his ODI record against Bangladesh, having scored just one half-century against them in 13 innings.
Bangladesh usually do not make changes when they have just won a game, especially when they are playing at the same venue.
Batting and bowling woes may tempt Pakistan into trying out Shan Masood and Junaid Khan for the first time in the tournament. But it also does not mean the likes of Faheem Ashraf, Haris Sohail and Usman Khan cannot be hopeful of a place in the XI.
Bangladesh best XI (probable): Liton Kumar Das, NazmulHossainShanto, Mohammad Mithun, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, ImrulKayes, MahmudullahRiyad, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza (captain), MehidyHasanMiraz, Nazmul Islam and MustafizurRahman.
Pakistan best XI (probable): Imam-ul-Haq, FakharZaman, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan and Shaheen Shah Afridi.UNB