Pakistan’s cricket team will have their task cut out when they take on a spirited Bangladesh in their opening World Twenty20 Group 2 contest at the Eden Gardens here on Wednesday.
Bangladesh topped their group in the qualifying round by beating the Netherlands and Oman. Their game against Ireland in Dharamsala was rained out. But in both matches they won, Bangladesh impressed in every department.
Against the Netherlands they survived a bit of a scare but nonetheless, they had the strong will to bag the match by eight runs. Against Oman, Tamim Iqbal stole the limelight. The left-hander blasted an unbeaten 63-ball 103 and almost batted the opposition out of the match. Bangladesh won the game by 54 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Prior to the qualifiers, they also had a brilliant outing in the Asia Cup. The ‘Tigers’ hunted down rivals Pakistan and then Sri Lanka. However, India tamed them in the final, clinching it by eight wickets.
The Bangladeshi bowling looks great with the likes of Taskin Ahmed and Al-Amin Hossain lighting it up with their pace and then Shakib Al Hasan and captain Mashrafe Mortaza backing them up with their experience.
Bangladesh have been missing their pacer Mustafizur Rahman since the Asia Cup final because of a side strain. But he is likely to make a comeback on Wednesday. The youngster will love to bowl on the Eden wicket where he might just get enough purchase with his cutters and slower balls.
The batting too looks a settled unit with Iqbal hitting form. They also have big hitters like Mahmudullah, who with a few massive sixes can turn the game around on any given day.
Pakistan will be wary of the strengths and weaknesses of Bangladesh. The Shahid Afridi-led outfit might not have had the best of times in T20 cricket recently but the 2009 edition champions would know it is the right time to answer back their critics.
In the recently held Asia Cup when the two teams met, Pakistan were beaten by five wickets and vengeance will be in the minds of Afridi and his men. However, it will depend on how Pakistan bowlers fare on the flat Eden surface.
If the fast bowling trio of Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz fire all cylinders, Bangladesh can have a difficult time.
Speaking about Amir, Afridi had said a couple of days back that “he is the best for me”. Since his return to international cricket after a five-year ban for spot fixing, Amir has hit a purple patch and would want to carry it in this tournament and live up to his tag of being his captain’s “best”.
Left-arm spinner Imad Wasim, who bagged a four-wicket haul to fashion a win against Sri Lanka in a warm-up game on Monday might, could be the dark horse for Pakistan on the slow track.
The batting line-up is, however, an inexperienced one and veterans like Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez need to play responsibly in order to outdo Bangladesh.
Tickets have sold like hot cakes. One would expect a vociferous Eden on match day even though India isn’t part of the clash.
(Debdoot Das can be contacted at email@example.com)