DHAKA - Pakistan’s one-wicket win against India has put them in a strong position. A victory against Bangladesh on Wednesday will seal their place in the Asia Cup final, and their opponents are under tremendous pressure because of a string of losses and other controversies.
Bangladesh will bank on Shakib Al Hasan, who will return from a three-ODI suspension. He will strengthen a middle order that is suffering because of Nasir Hossain’s poor form, but the pressure on Bangladesh’s top three will remain. Anamul Haque failed against Afghanistan and he could have a new opening partner in Imrul Kayes, if the team management decides Shamsur Rahman’s strike-rate is too low.
While Nasir’s form is a concern, Bangladesh have not covered for him. They chose batting allrounder Mahmudullah as replacement for the injured offspinner Sohag Gazi, despite him being dropped from the original Asia Cup squad after making only six runs in the three bilateral ODIs against Sri Lanka. Since Mahmudullah has replaced a specialist offspinner, he will be expected to fulfill the role and provide batting cover.
Pace bowling is also a concern in Mashrafe Mortaza’s absence. Rubel Hossain has had to lead the attack but his new-ball partner has kept changing. Shafiul Islam and Al-Amin Hossain are the options against Pakistan, as Bangladesh search for the right combination.
Pakistan, on the other hand, have far fewer worries. They will want their openers Sharjeel Khan and Ahmed Shehzad to score runs, instead of leaving the responsibility to the middle order, which has been in form. The Pakistan management confirmed Mohammad Talha was fit to play, and with Umar Gul and Junaid Khan, the pace attack will Test Bangladesh.
The last game between these sides was the 2012 Asia Cup final, which Bangladesh lost by two runs. The hosts will have to raise their game significantly to run Pakistan that close again.
Mominul Haque made 50 against Afghanistan but got out just when the team required his presence at the crease during a crucial period. He has been in form at No. 3 but struggles to convert starts into defining innings in ODIs.
Ahmed Shehzad has threatened to score big but hasn’t done so in the first two games. This is his third opportunity in this tournament, and his experience in Bangladesh domestic cricket could help him succeed.
Because of questions about the commitment of four players in the Bangldesh team that played Afghanistan, all the squad members stand a chance to play. Shakib will definitely replace Naeem Islam while Shamsur’s place is also under scrutiny.
Mohammad Talha pulled up with a leg injury against India and might be given a rest, though the management says he is fit to play. Sharjeel Khan injured his foot while fielding but he batted against India.
PAKISTAN: Sharjeel Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Sohaib Maqsood, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Mohammad Talha, Bilawal Bhatti, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Anwar Ali, Fawad Alam, Abdul Rehman.
BANGLADESH: Anamul Haque (wk), Shamsur Rahman, Imrul Kayes, Mominul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim (capt), Shakib Al Hasan, Nasir Hossain, Ziaur Rahman, Mahmudullah, Arafat Sunny, Abdur Razzak, Al-Amin Hossain, Rubel Hossain.