Asia Cup: BAN, PAK seek to clear path to final
Teams are getting close to that stage of the Asia Cup when a place in the final is the only thing in their mind. Pakistan, who opened their account against UAE on Monday night after getting walloped by India, have a lot to do, and the first thing will be to beat Bangladesh, who are ahead of them by two points after their wins over UAE and Sri Lanka, and will have a clearer path to the final if they can win this contest.
Bangladesh were on fire against Sri Lanka, putting aside their T20 conservatism and taking the game by the collar. Sabbir Rahman's brilliant 80 off 54 balls led the way, with Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah providing a fine finish. With the ball, Shakib did well again while Mashrafe Mortaza, Al-Amin Hossain and Mustafizur Rahman bowled critical overs with much confidence to stop Sri Lanka from overtaking their mediocre score.
The last of those names, Mustafizur, is missing due to a side strain, which will be a big blow to the home side. Mustafizur took two wickets on debut against Pakistan last year and has been bowling well lately too. On the other hand, Bangladesh's batting will be bolstered by the return of Tamim Iqbal, after he returned to Dhaka from Bangkok where his wife gave birth to their first child. Tamim is in form too, having made 267 runs in six innings during the PSL last month.
Pakistan will bank a lot on their bowling attack, especially Mohammad Amir who lit up the Asia Cup with his spells against India and UAE. They will expect more from the likes of Mohammad Sami and Mohammad Irfan, and the left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz, who was tonked around the park by UAE.
Pakistan's main concern will be their batting line-up, particularly their top order, which did not do well in the first two matches. Much will depend on Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik, and on Shahid Afridi and Sarfraz Ahmed down the order.
There is every chance of this being an excellent contest now that the Mirpur curator Gamini Silva is dishing out better pitches.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Bangladesh – WWLLL
Pakistan – WLLLW
Watch out for
Umar Akmal made sure of Pakistan's two points against UAE in their last game, and he did that in style, reaching his eighth T20I fifty in the process. He has, however, made only 20 runs in the two innings he has played against Bangladesh in this format.
There is very little left to say about Mashrafe Mortaza's leadership, but he will want to improve his wicket count against Pakistan in T20Is, having taken just two wickets in seven matches against them.
Tamim Iqbal will return to the XI, most likely in place of Mohammad Mithun, while Abu Hider could replace the injured Mustafizur Rahman. On the other hand, Pakistan could take out Khurram Manzoor and include Imad Wasim, but there is unlikely to be any place for Anwar Ali.
Bangladesh (probable): Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir Rahman, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Nurul Hasan (wk), Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Al-Amin Hossain, Abu Hider, Taskin Ahmed
Pakistan (probable): Sharjeel Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Khurram Manzoor, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi (capt), Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Sami, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Irfan
Pitch and conditions
There will still be something for the seamers in the Mirpur pitch but it won't be as exaggerated as it was in the first few matches. There is no forecast of rain on Wednesday evening.
Stats and trivia
In the last encounter between these two sides, Sabbir Rahman scored a fifty that he still reckons is his best T20I knock.
Mohammad Hafeez is 30 runs behind Umar Akmal as Pakistan's highest scorer in T20Is while Shakib Al Hasan needs 55 more runs to become the first Bangladesh batsman to reach 1000 T20I runs.
"In the last one year, he has scored thousand international runs. He has been our best at the top, so having someone of that calibre always helps."
– Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha on Tamim Iqbal's return
"The wickets here are a bit difficult. As the tournament is progressing, yesterday's wicket did not have much grass. So I think our players are confident."
– Pakistan's interim bowling coach Azhar Mahmood about his side's level of confidence