Young Bangladesh aim for redemption against confident Pakistan

Young Bangladesh aim for redemption against confident Pakistan

Big Picture

Bangladesh and Pakistan are two sides very much on the opposite ends of the confidence scale, with a team on a roll taking on a line-up that is in transformation after a disappointing T20 World Cup campaign. The two teams meet in a three-match T20I series starting Friday in Dhaka.

The visitors will be wary of Bangladesh’s dominance at home, even though they failed to secure a win in five games in the Super 12s in the UAE.

Pakistan, who were semi-finalists in the global tournament, will be looking to carry forward their form. Their batting line-up has adjusted to most conditions and has imposed themselves on several occasions. Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan have led the team well as openers, while the likes of Fakhar Zaman and Shoaib Malik have contributed at crucial moments. Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz are the spinning allrounders in the lower middle order, although their bowling would be more important on the slow Dhaka pitches.

Shaheen Shah Afridi leads the bowling attack and his first over spectacle will be closely followed in Dhaka. Barring his last over against Australia, he had a great tournament in the UAE, picking up seven wickets in six matches. Pakistan also have extra pace from Haris Rauf, while Hasan Ali, smarting from his dropped catch in the semi-final, will be out to prove a point.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh are going in with an inexperienced side. Mushfiqur Rahim, one of the most experienced cricketers in the team, has been dropped with the chief selector Minhajul Abedin insisting that he was rested for the T20I series keeping in mind Bangladesh’s scheduling for the next two months. Soumya Sarkar and Liton Das too have lost their top-order spots.

They have brought in Najmul Hossain Shanto, Saif Hassan and Yasir Ali at the top. Shanto and Saif are Test regulars with decent domestic T20 records, while Yasir has been in the Test squad throughout this year. Yasir had a decent DPL season, scoring 266 runs in 12 innings. The selectors have also included legspinner Aminul Islam, pace bowler Shahidul Islam and wicketkeeper Akbar Ali, but they are considered as backup options.

The real responsibility is with captain Mahmudullah, one of their experienced cricketers left in the v. Due to the lack of experience in the squad, his role might be changed from being a finisher to middle-order anchor. Mohammad Naim will be looking to improve his approach in the powerplay, while Afif Hossain and Nurul Hasan must prove their worth after disappointing returns in the World Cup.

The only thing that seems to work for the hosts is the bowling. Taskin Ahmed had a good outing in the UAE – picking up six wickets at an economy of 6.50 in six matches – challenging Mustafizur Rahman as the leader of the pack. Mahedi Hasan and Nasum Ahmed will also be crucial in Shakib Al Hasan’s absence due to a hamstring injury, particularly at home. The spin pair may hold the key for the home side.

Form guide

(Last five completed matches, most recent first)

Bangladesh LLLLL

Pakistan LWWWW

In the spotlight

One of Bangladesh’s biggest problems this year has been catching. They dropped 11 catches during the T20 World Cup, having already been the team to have dropped the second most number of catches this year. It got the fielding coach fired, and training sessions now include more focus on catching. The dropped catches could, however, be linked to general unease within the team throughout this year.
Shadab Khan almost got Pakistan to the T20 World Cup final with his four-wicket haul in the semi-final against Australia. He only gave away more than 30 runs in one of the six games in the tournament, an effort that has brought him out of a bad patch from the last two years. He will be a major threat for Bangladesh, who have found legspin difficult to handle.

Team news

Bangladesh may hand debuts to Saif Hassan and Yasir Ali and bring in Najmul Hossain Shanto to rejig the top order. The main concern will be finding four overs from the fifth bowler, given that they are more likely to play seven batters.

Bangladesh (probable): 1 Mohammad Naim, 2 Saif Hassan, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 4 Yasir Ali, 5 Mahmudullah (capt), 6 Afif Hossain, 7 Nurul Hasan (wk), 8 Mahedi Hasan, 9 Nasum Ahmed, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Taskin Ahmed.

Pakistan have rested Asif Ali and Imad Wasim to give Haider Ali, Khushdil Shah and Mohammad Nawaz a chance. There will be a toss-up between Mohammad Wasim Jr. and Hasan Ali for the third fast bowler’s slot.

Pakistan (probable): 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Fakhar Zaman, 4 Haider Ali, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Khushdil Shah, 7 Mohammad Nawaz, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Hasan Ali, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Shaheen Shah Afridi

Pitch and conditions

The Mirpur pitch is the most talked about aspect ahead of the first T20I. The average score batting first has been 119 this year, although it used to be 152 in the previous ten years. There’s hope it will be better for batting after a bit of groundwork was done during the last two months. Weather holds steady, with winter setting in.

Stats and trivia

  • Bangladesh have won the last two T20Is against Pakistan at home, beating them in the one-off game in 2015 and the 2016 Asia Cup, respectively.
  • Mahmudullah is 60 runs short of becoming the first Bangladeshi batter to reach 2000 runs in T20Is.
  • Mohammad Rizwan’s 391 runs are the most by any batter in powerplays this year.
  • Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84