Mirpur: Who would have thought it would come to this? Pakistan, despite a crushing six-wicket defeat, are in the Asia Cup final, while India, with two wins, need Sri Lanka – out of the tournament – to beat Bangladesh to ensure they join their archrivals at the summit.
For a tournament widely downplayed for having little value in today's jam-packed calendar, there is suddenly plenty of interest in the sixth and final league match of the Asia Cup in Mirpur on Tuesday.
Pakistan, with nine points, are in the final despite yesterday's embarrassing loss to India. India, on eight points, will keenly follow this match with a hope of seeing Sri Lanka win to knock the hosts out of the tournament. Bangladesh, with four points, will hope to keep India out of what would be a mouth-watering final. Should they win, they will face Pakistan owing to the fact that they lead the head-to-head against India.
Coming into the tournament, few would have expected the hosts to have a chance of making the final at this stage. But such is the nature of the 50-over game that Bangladesh, who chased down India's target of 289 last week, actually have a shot at joining Pakistan in the final. Having run Pakistan close last Sunday and then pulling the carpet from under the Indians' feet, Bangladesh have plenty of reason to believe they can down Sri Lanka too.
Bangladesh's last ODI win over Sri Lanka came in January 2009, incidentally at this same venue, the Shere Bangla National Stadium. On that occasion, victory was fashioned by the ball as Sri Lanka were skittled for just 147 in 30.3 overs, before Shakib al Hasan's unbeaten 92 off 69 balls sealed victory by five wickets. More than three years on, Shakib remains Bangladesh's most important player.
His whirlwind 49 earned him the Man of the Match in the win over India, but without key knocks from Tamim Iqbal, Jahurul Islam and the captain, Mushfiqur Rahim, the win would not have been possible. Bangladesh's victory over India featured the first instance where five of their batsmen had reached 40 in an ODI, and indeed the calculated manner in which their batsmen approached a stiff chase was the reason for a famous upset. Against Sri Lanka, who possess a far stronger bowling attack than India, the challenge for the home team is to put up a good score if they bat first, or hold their nerve when chasing. Sri Lanka have hammered Bangladesh in their last three face-offs – by seven wickets, nine wickets and 126 runs – and their best chance of winning is if the batting clicks collectively.
Sri Lanka have no chance of making the final, but a victory will ensure India progress. They have been hit hard by injuries to their allrounders Angelo Mathews and Thissara Perera, and Chamara Kapugedera's poor run has left them with no alternative batsmen in the middle order. Should the Sri Lankans seek to come out hard in their last match, it is foreseeable that they play their strongest bowling attack. That means Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Suranga Lakmal will make up the pace department, and that Seekkuge Prasanna will hold his place as the spinner despite failing to make an impact in Bangladesh.
This match may be of little consequence for Sri Lanka, but a win would give them some pep going into a tough home series against England.
Bangladesh: 1 Nazimuddin, 2 Tamim Iqbal, 3 Jahurul Islam, 4 Nasir Hossain, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt/wk), 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Abdur Razzak, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza, 10 Shafiul Islam, 11 Shahadat Hossain
Sri Lanka: 1 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Upul Tharanga, 7 Farveez Maharoof, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Seekkuge Prasanna, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Suranga Lakmal.