The similarities in the campaign make it difficult to pick a favourite. They haven't played each other in a long time too; the last time these two sides met was in March 2016 during the World T20. The last time they met in a One-Day International was in April 2015.
Both sides have changed a lot since then, for the better. Bangladesh made it to the knockouts of an ICC event for the first time when they reached the semifinals of the Champions Trophy last year. They even went on to beat Windies in the Caribbean earlier this year. Pakistan, meanwhile, stunned many to win the Champions Trophy.
The Asia Cup is another important tournament for both sides in their upward journey. Yet, both have been inconsistent through their campaign. It's time to fix that, for they face a do-or-die situation at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Bangladesh's biggest problem has been their over-reliance on individuals. With Tamim Iqbal injured in the very first game, Mushfiqur Rahim has had to carry the team on his shoulders. It was only because of his century that they won against Sri Lanka in the group stage. The rest have been on and off, although most of the batsmen have had at least one decent score through the campaign. It all seemed to come together in their previous match against Afghanistan, where Imrul Kayes and Mahmudullah helped them post a competitive 249 for 7 after being 87 for 5 at one stage.
Bangladesh though will want more from Shakib Al Hasan and their openers. Shakib has scores of 0, 32, 17 and 0 in four matches while the highest score by an opener has been the 41 by Liton Das in the last match. Soumya Sarkar, who was drafted in the squad for the Super Fours, could perhaps replace Nazmul Hossain Shanto against Pakistan. Bangladesh will also want to improve on their death bowling. They conceded 97 and 77 runs respectively of the last 10 overs in their matches against India and Afghanistan respectively, and cannot afford a repeat in the knockout game.
Pakistan too have had individual performances but haven't brought out their A game as a team. Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik have had scores in the tournament but haven't fired in unison. The good thing for Pakistan is that Fakhar Zaman and Sarfraz Ahmed, who had dull starts, showed signs of form against India although they couldn't convert them into big knocks. Pakistan will hope that happens against Bangladesh.
Pakistan's bowling was made to look ordinary by India's openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, with both scoring effortless centuries. What has been even more ordinary through the tournament though has been their fielding. Pakistan have improved leaps and bounds on the field in the last two years, but the last two weeks have been a throwback to their notorious past with dropped catches and misfields aplenty.
Yet, they've got plenty of firepower in their bowling, which can be too good for any opposition on their day. Pakistan will hope Wednesday will be that day, for if they get it right, they'll have a chance to face India for Round 3. And who knows, maybe do what they did to their arch-rivals in the Champions Trophy final last year.
Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shan Masood, Sarfraz Ahmed(c), Shoaib Malik, Haris Sohail, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Usman Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Asif Ali, Mohammad Amir.
Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza(c), Mohammad Mithun, Liton Das, Mushfiqur Rahim, Ariful Haque, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Nazmul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Hider Rony, Nazmul Hossain Shanto, Mominul Haque, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes
Asia Cup 2018Babar AzambangladeshBangladesh vs PakistanFakhar ZamanImam-ul-Haqmashrafe mortazaMushfiqur Rahimpakistanshakib al hasan
First Published: September 25, 2018, 5:42 PM IST