DHAKA: Having registered resounding back-to-back victories, hosts Bangladesh are expected to put up a tough fight against Pakistan despite the absence of their main strike bowler Mustafizur Rahaman in their Asia Cup Twenty20 encounter, here on Wednesday.
It will be a must-win game for both teams aiming to make it to the finals of the continental championship ahead of the ICC World Twenty20.
Especially for Bangladesh, who despite their recent exploits in the ODI circuit, are still not taken very seriously in the shortest format.
For Mashrafe Mortaza and his men, it will be an opportunity to prove their critics wrong and also gain the much needed confidence required before boarding the flight to India for the global event.
The injury to Mustafizur is something that will be a cause of concern for the home team. Mustafizur’s variations would have no doubt troubled the Pakistan batting line-up, which has looked shaky despite their seven wicket win against United Arab Emirates the other day.
The presence of the left-arm seamer during the death overs would have increased pressure on the Pakistanis, who have not been at their best in the two matches they played so far.
But the good news for Bangladesh is the return of senior opener Tamim Iqbal, who is back after the birth of his first child.
Tamim would like to give the home team a cracking start something they have lacked in all three matches so far.
“Tamim’s absence is always a setback for us, he is Bangladesh’s best batsman in all formats,” said Mortaza on the eve of the match.
“He is experienced, he has been playing for a long time. But Mustafiz’s absence is a big blow. We all know what he has done for this team. It’s really unfortunate for us. We would have liked both of them.”
On the other hand, Pakistan’s batting has been woeful in the first game against India, where they were shot out for a meagre 83 while UAE also gave them a scare blowing away the top order for only 17 runs.
Even Pakistan coach Waqar Younis conceded that he did not know what stopped the openers Sharjeel Khan and Mohammed Hafeez from playing fearless cricket.
However, Waqar praised the attitude of veteran cricketer Shoaib Malik, who played a responsible innings of 63 against UAE.
“I mean things have been messy [about Shoaib] in the past but now he is a team man. Also having played in leagues all across the world, he has gained a lot of experience in this format. This particular format actually suits him also,” he said.
The best part about Pakistan team has been their bowling attack, which is now led by rehabilitated pacer Mohammed Amir, who has been splendid in both the matches.
If Amir looked fearsome against India with pace and swing, he showed admirable control against UAE bowling 21 dot balls in his figures of 4-1-6-2.
But Amir would certainly require help from senior bowlers like Mohammed Sami, who has been wayward so far. Mohammad Irfan has extracted a lot of bounce with his height but has not looked penetrative enough.
It will also be interesting to find out whether the Pakistan team management persists with left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz or bring back experienced campaigner Wahab Riaz.