Both Pakistan and Bangladesh have been erratic in this tournament. They won one match and lost one in the group stages, and then got beaten by the Rohit Sharma-led side in their respective Super Four games. However, the two somehow managed to defeat Afghanistan in close-fought matches and have kept themselves alive in the competition.
The two teams will now face off on Wednesday at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi with everything on the line. Considering the unpredictable nature of both the sides, the match can very well turn out to be a mouth-watering affair. And then there are also few interesting battles on the cards that could determine the course of the game.
Fakhar Zaman vs Mustafizur Rahman
This battle of southpaws who aren't really 'traditional students' of the game!
The form of these two players has been completely contrasting. While Zaman has struggled to get going, Mustafizur has played a key role for Bangladesh in two of the three games that he has played. Zaman came into the tournament in terrific form but has only managed scores of 24, 0, 0 and 31. Meanwhile, Mustafizur has given Bangladesh four wickets at an impressive economy of 4.73.
Zaman looked completely out of place against India on Sunday but was able to spend some quality time during his stay in the middle. Bangladesh will be wary of the damage Zaman can cause up the order and they will look up to none other than Mustafizur, aka 'magician' in the words of captain Mashrafe Mortaza, to remove the dangerous opener as soon as possible. Zaman might look to attack from the word go and that's where Mustafizur's canny variations will come in handy.
Shoaib Malik vs Shakib Al Hasan
The 36-year-old has hands down been Pakistan's best batsman in this event. He was instrumental in steering his team to victory against Afghanistan in their first Super Four game, scoring an unbeaten 51 off 43 deliveries and was the top-scorer for Pakistan, with a 90-ball 78, in their last match against India. Meanwhile, Shakib, who is playing with an injured left little finger, has been in decent form but Bangladesh will need a lot more from their ace all-rounder in the virtual semi-final.
Malik is Pakistan's best player of spin bowling and the southpaw has carried the middle-order on his shoulders. Shakib's strength is accuracy but Malik is not someone who will let the bowler dictate terms. If Bangladesh fail to get rid of Malik early, the right-hander has got the game to calmly thrash the opponent. The onus is on Shakib!
Sarfraz Ahmed vs Mashrafe Mortaza
This combat won't be fought with bat or ball in hand. It will be more of a mental fray.
Sarfraz and Mortaza might not even face each other but the way the two will lead their respective sides will be quite intriguing to watch. Both have underperformed in their own departments. While Sarfraz has scored at an average of 19.33, Mortaza has leaked runs at an economy of 6.34. However, the latter does have five wickets to his name.
They are poles apart as captains! While Sarfraz likes to express his emotions, Mortaza doesn't believe in making too much noise. It's not easy to captain teams like Pakistan and Bangladesh, but if you do, it's important to lead from the front. The one who does that will most probably find himself at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on September 28, ready with the Indian captain Rohit for the toss.
Hasan Ali vs Mushfiqur Rahim
Whenever Pakistan need a wicket, Sarfraz looks at Hasan and more often than not the 24-year-old pacer delivers. However, this hasn't been a case in this tournament. Ali has failed to make the same impact in the Asia Cup like he has been making since his ODI debut in August 2016. He has only picked up three wickets at 51.66. Meanwhile, Rahim has had a decent run, scoring 198 runs at an average of 66. He struck a brilliant 144 against Sri Lanka but failed to convert good starts into something substantial against India and Afghanistan.
Hasan likes to operate in the middle-overs and that's when these two can collide. The right-arm fast bowler has the tendency to pick wickets and it can come crucial against Bangladesh's solid middle-order comprising of Rahim, Shakib and Mahmudullah. Yes, Hasan might not have made the same impact he is known for, but one good over, or one peach of a delivery, and it can all turn around. At the same time, it will be Rahim's duty to ensure he doesn't allow Hasan to dominate in the middle phase of the innings.
Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz vs Mahmudullah
Mahmudullah is Bangladesh's crisis man. Every time Bangladesh are in trouble, the middle-order batsman comes up with his A-game to provide stability to his team. He was Man of the Match in Bangladesh's last game against Afghanistan where he crafted an 81-ball 74 after his team were reduced to 87 for 5. It was his 125-run partnership with Imrul Kayes (72*) that took Bangladesh to a score of 249 for 7, which they somehow managed to defend.
However, the 32-year-old won't have it easy against the spin duo of Shadab and Nawaz. While the two haven't done justice to their potential, one can't simply rule out the threat they can cause on a track which will be favourable to the spinners. Bangladesh's top-order has hardly contributed and Mahmudullah might again find himself in a crunch situation on Wednesday, but that's when Shadab and Nawaz will have to make sure they don't give any breathing space to either Bangladesh, or their crisis man.
Asia Cup 2018bangladeshhasan alimahmudullahmashrafe mortazaMohammad NawazMushfiqur Rahimpakistanpakistan vs bangladesh 2018Sarfraz AhmedShadab Khan
First Published: September 26, 2018, 9:57 AM IST