Mirpur: Bangladesh have done the unthinkable by making it to the Asia Cup final for the first time in its 28-year history, and Pakistan – who have won the title just once in 2000 - now must be looking over their shoulders ahead of the title showdown on Thursday.
Who would have thought the Bangladeshis would beat India and Sri Lanka on their way to their first major ODI final? Never before had they beaten India and Sri Lanka in this tournament, so their performance cannot be called a fluke, and they will be backing themselves to clear the last hurdle as well.
Their wins against the subcontinental giants came under tremendous pressure. They lost a close encounter against Pakistan in the tournament opener and that time it appeared their inability to finish off matches would mar their bid for a final berth. However, against all odds, they comfortably chased down 290 against India with astute planning. Unfortunately their victory was somewhat overshadowed by Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th international century.
Next, in the must-win encounter against Sri Lanka on Tuesday, rain looked to have put them on the back foot as they needed a revised target of 212 in 40 overs after restricting Sri Lanka to 232. Things got worse in their chase as they lost three early wickets with only 40 runs on the board. But they defied all odds to advance to the final. Clearly, it hasn’t been an easy journey for Bangladesh and they need to commended for showing resilience when the chips were down.
Pakistan on the other hand have been the best team of the tournament, with their only loss coming against India where they could not defend 329. Other than that blemish, they have been the team to beat, and against Bangladesh they will go in as favourites. But having seen the hosts coming of age in the tournament it would be foolish on their part to think that the match is there for the taking.
Against the backdrop of reports that this might be Misbah-ul-Haq’s last match as Pakistan’s ODI captain, the challenge for the team is to not let such talk distract from their task. Amidst the spot-fixing scandal and other controversies in the last couple of years, Misbah has held himself together admirably and played a key role in bringing Pakistan cricket back on track. Now the bigwigs in the Pakistan Cricket Board want to ease responsibility on his shoulders by limiting his captaincy only to Tests.
Comparing both teams, Pakistan are better than the Bangladeshis in every department. But so were India and Sri Lanka. What goes in the hosts’ favour is the massive crowd support they have got so far at Mirpur’s Shere Bangla National Stadium. The undying support from their fans may turn out to the difference between the two sides.
This will be 11th time that both teams are squaring up each other in this tournament, and Bangladesh are yet to register their first win against the 2000 champions.
Bangladesh have been very poor in international cricket in the last few years, leading many to question their credentials. This is their chance to change that tide of opposition. They really need a big win. If they win tomorrow, it might be the start of a new order in the sub-continent, who knows.
Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Nazimuddin, Jahurul Islam, Mushfiqur Rahim (capt/wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Nasir Hossain, Mashrafe Mortaza, Abdur Razzak, Shahadat Hossain, Nazmul Hossain
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq(capt), Umar Akmal(wk), Shahid Afridi, Hammad Azam, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz, Aizaz Cheema