Bangladesh and Pakistan will come face to face in match 8 of the Asia Cup at Mirpur on Wednesday. Both sides will be confident having tasted wins in their previous matches. Bangladesh beat UAE and, more significantly, Sri Lanka, to get their campaign on track after the loss against India earlier in the event. They would be confident of putting up a good show against Pakistan as well. Shahid Afridi's men may have overcome the UAE challenge after also having gone down to India earlier. But, their performance was a rather nervy one, and they cannot afford to slip against Bangladesh, who remain a dangerous side in home conditions.
There is mixed news for Bangladesh as far as player availability is concerned. The good news first -- Tamim Iqbal is back in the mix after having missed matches in the first half to be with his wife for the birth of his child. Bangladesh have struggled at the top in his absence. But Mohammad Mithun played a decent knock in his previous innings so it would be difficult for Bangladesh to drop him. The other option is to drop Soumya Sarkar and get in Iqbal. But, Sarkar can be dangerous if he gets his eye in, so Bangladesh would be wary of taking a risk of that kind. They might prefer dropping a middle-order bat to accommodate Iqbal.
The bad news for Bangladesh is that Mustafizur Rahman won't be available owing to injury. This is a big blow for the hosts since Rahman is one of their key pace bowlers. Having said that, Bangladesh would be pleased with the form Al-Amin Hossain and Taskin Ahmed have displayed. They will also be elated with the brilliance of Sabbir Rahman, who singlehandedly won the game for them against Sri Lanka, with a scintillating innings. The all-round form of Mahmudullah will also please them. But, Bangladesh's batting hasn't not been upto the mark in both matches, which is one area where they will have to improve.
As for Pakistan, even as they would be happy having gotten on the board against UAE, they will head into the match against Bangladesh with mixed feeling. The top order batting has crumbled in both games they have played so far. Mohammad Hafeez, Khurram Manzoor and Sharjeel Khan would be under definite pressure as they go into the clash against Bangladesh. Luckily for Pakistan, Shoaib Malik brought all his experience into play and played a mature knock against UAE. Umar Akmal is not known for his patient play, but he too supported Malik admirably in the game. Pakistan would be eagerly looking forward to runs from Afridi in case he gets a chance.
Pace bowling has been Pakistan's strength, and the same has come to the fore in this Asia Cup as well. Mohammad Amir was sensational against India, and while he did not get a lot of wickets against UAE, he was unbelievably economical considering the T20 format. Mohammed Sami and Mohammad Irfan have been decent, but Pakistan would expect more out of the experienced duo. What would be interesting to see is whether Pakistan persist with left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz, or go back to the experienced Wahab Riaz, who had a rare poor game against the Indians.
-- By A Cricket Analyst