Bangladesh aim for final roar against favourites Pakistan today
DHAKA: History beckons for Bangladesh as they aim to rise above the minnows tag and notch up their biggest title since arriving on international scene when they take on Pakistan in the Asia Cup final here on Thursday.
With former champions India and Sri Lanka shockingly thrown out of the competition, it is the most surprising summit line-up for the event which is struggling for relevance in a crowded international calendar. Defending champions India paid the price for a stunning loss to Bangladesh in the league stage while four-time winners Sri Lanka failed to register a single triumph in the competition.
The debacles of the two teams, who have dominated the tournament since its inception way back in 1984, paved way for an unlikely finalist in Bangladesh, a side which is known for upsetting the big guns but haven’t won major tournaments. The giant-killers thrashed India, chasing down a mammoth 290, but that was seen merely as one of rare stunners that Bangladesh are so well known to throw up in multi-national events.
However, the determined side proved critics wrong by beating an already demoralised Sri Lanka as well, a result that knocked India out of the final. “It’s a great achievement for the country, so far the biggest. We realise it’s still not over, we have another very important game. We’ll enjoy, we’ll party, but on Thursday we’ll be back to business. I hope we will fire on 22nd,” said opener Tamim Iqbal, hero of that win over Sri Lanka with a half century.
“I think when we talk in the dressing room its like, ‘100 runs in 20 overs is no problem’. This is the sort of confidence that we have now,” said all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan. “Cricket is a mental game so this confidence is very important. If a player goes down the wicket and thinks he’ll get stumped, he will. If he thinks he will hit a six, he’ll be successful most of the times.”
If the hosts manage to carry this confidence and clinch the big prize on Thursday, the country is set for one big party that might last quite a few days. And both Tamim and Shakib hold the key to this, at least on batting front.
But Pakistan would look to play the role of party poopers. Misbah-ul-Haq’s men have not won the title since 2000, which was coincidently held in Bangladesh. Pakistan were given a mighty scare in league encounter that they played against hosts but would still be overwhelming favourites to win the title for only the second time.
They certainly have the arsenal to complete the job. Their batting looks solid with in-form openers Mohammed Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed providing fine starts in the league stage. Younis Khan and Umar Akmal have made decent contributions in the middle order. Overall, Pakistan have the line-up to post a huge total.
What probably might be slightly worrying is way their bowlers have leaked runs. Pace spearhead Umar Gul has picked up wickets but it is flow of runs that he has to keep in check. Aizaz Cheema was ineffective, at least against India, who managed to chase down a huge target of 330 due to a pedestrian effort of Pakistani bowlers.
Pakistan’s fielding too needs to improve. The reflexes haven’t been sharp enough and it could cost them dearly if Bangladesh manage to continue their superb run.
Pakistan certainly start as favourites when two captains walk out for toss but given the high Bangladesh are on right now, it could well be the night of the underdogs.
BANGLADESH: Tamim Iqbal, Nazimuddin, Jahurul Islam, Mushfiqur Rahim (captain), Shakib Al Hasan, Nasir Hossain, Mohammad Mahmudullah, Mashrafe Mortaza, Shahadat Hossain Abdur Razzak, Nazmul Hossain, Anamul Haque, Elias Sunny, Imrul Kayes, Shafiul Islam.
PAKISTAN: Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Shahid Afridi, Hammad Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Aizaz Cheema, Abdur Rehman, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Wahab Riaz.
Umpires: Steve Davis (Australia) and Ian Gould (England)
Match referee: David Boon.—Agencies