Bangladesh and Pakistan are two sides very much on the opposite ends of the confidence scale, with a team on a roll taking on a line-up that is in transformation after a disappointing T20 World Cup campaign. The two teams meet in a three-match T20I series starting Friday in Dhaka.
The visitors will be wary of Bangladesh’s dominance at home, even though they failed to secure a win in five games in the Super 12s in the UAE.
Pakistan, who were semi-finalists in the global tournament, will be looking to carry forward their form. Their batting line-up has adjusted to most conditions and has imposed themselves on several occasions. Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan have led the team well as openers, while the likes of Fakhar Zaman and Shoaib Malik have contributed at crucial moments. Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz are the spinning allrounders in the lower middle order, although their bowling would be more important on the slow Dhaka pitches.
They have brought in Najmul Hossain Shanto, Saif Hassan and Yasir Ali at the top. Shanto and Saif are Test regulars with decent domestic T20 records, while Yasir has been in the Test squad throughout this year. Yasir had a decent DPL season, scoring 266 runs in 12 innings. The selectors have also included legspinner Aminul Islam, pace bowler Shahidul Islam and wicketkeeper Akbar Ali, but they are considered as backup options.
The only thing that seems to work for the hosts is the bowling. Taskin Ahmed had a good outing in the UAE – picking up six wickets at an economy of 6.50 in six matches – challenging Mustafizur Rahman as the leader of the pack. Mahedi Hasan and Nasum Ahmed will also be crucial in Shakib Al Hasan’s absence due to a hamstring injury, particularly at home. The spin pair may hold the key for the home side.
(Last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Bangladesh may hand debuts to Saif Hassan and Yasir Ali and bring in Najmul Hossain Shanto to rejig the top order. The main concern will be finding four overs from the fifth bowler, given that they are more likely to play seven batters.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Mohammad Naim, 2 Saif Hassan, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 4 Yasir Ali, 5 Mahmudullah (capt), 6 Afif Hossain, 7 Nurul Hasan (wk), 8 Mahedi Hasan, 9 Nasum Ahmed, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Taskin Ahmed.
Pakistan have rested Asif Ali and Imad Wasim to give Haider Ali, Khushdil Shah and Mohammad Nawaz a chance. There will be a toss-up between Mohammad Wasim Jr. and Hasan Ali for the third fast bowler’s slot.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Fakhar Zaman, 4 Haider Ali, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Khushdil Shah, 7 Mohammad Nawaz, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Hasan Ali, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Shaheen Shah Afridi
Pitch and conditions
The Mirpur pitch is the most talked about aspect ahead of the first T20I. The average score batting first has been 119 this year, although it used to be 152 in the previous ten years. There’s hope it will be better for batting after a bit of groundwork was done during the last two months. Weather holds steady, with winter setting in.
Stats and trivia
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84