DUBAI: Pakistan must overcome the Bangladesh hurdle in their Super Four’s last game in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday in their quest to qualify for the Asia Cup final against India two days later.
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium will be fully packed with Bangladeshi fans more in attendance than the Pakistani fans as both teams lock horn for the first time in this tournament.
Bangladesh pulled off a thrilling win over a high-spirited Afghanistan and are more motivated than Pakistan who were thrashed by nine wickets against India — their heaviest defeat against arch rivals.
Pakistan’s head coach Mickey Arthur and senior batsman Shoaib Malik both accepted their team are lacking confidence, a weakness Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes hopes to exploit.
“I think we have got a great chance,” said Rhodes. “We respect Pakistan as a team and they played really well to win the Champions Trophy not too long ago. Their tournament has been interesting. They’re possibly playing with lack of little bit of confidence and not as confident as they were in the Champions Trophy.
“They are still a very dangerous team on their day, they can really put things together and play some good cricket. We are respectful to them as a team but we are also looking forward to the challenge. It’ll be a great contest. We wanted to be in this position when we set off from Bangladesh; try and beat Pakistan and get through to a wonderful final against India,” he added.
Pakistan have only lost four times to Bangladesh. The first being the notorious World Cup 1999 defeat while they were clean swept by Bangladesh soon after the 2015 World Cup — 3-0 in Bangladesh
Pakistan famously beat Bangladesh in the 2012 Asia Cup final by a single run, a defeat which created a lot of bitterness with Bangladesh complaining that paceman Aizaz Cheema — who bowled the last over — obstructed the batsman in his strides.
Mickey believed Pakistan always do well when their backs are up against the wall. But they needed a big lift in three departments as they have dropped crucial catches, have batted unimaginatively and bowled without success.
Pace spearhead Mohammad Amir in bowling and opener Fakhar Zaman are the biggest concerns for Pakistan as both have not been able to perform. While Amir has failed to get a single wicket in three games, Fakhar scored his first duck in one-day internationals in the first India game and then managed 31.
“I would hope that both come and show their skills,” said Arthur. “We know its a must-win game so we have to lift ourselves.”
Bangladesh’s concerns centered around their world class allrounder Shakib Al Hasan who has scores of 31, 32, 17 and nought in the four games besides taking seven wickets in four games.
Bangladesh lost dashing opener Tamim Iqbal in the opening game. But they have strengthened their batting by inducting Soumaya Sarkar and Imraul Kayes. Kayes scored a good half-century contest against Afghanistan.
Rhodes believed Sarkar also has a good chance of getting a hit.
“He is practicing here today and like all others, is available for selection. I am going to sit down with the captain and the selectors to pick the side later and he is as desperate to play as the other 17 players in the side now.”
Surprisingly, Pakistan have not played experienced bowler Junaid Khan, seemingly the coach do not have confidence in him.