One of the firm favourites to lift the coveted title in the recently-concluded World Cup, Pakistan were knocked out by eventual champions Australia in the semi-finals of the competition in a thrilling encounter. While they ended on the losing side in the final four stages of the competition, the team can take solace from their performance in the Super 12 stage of the competition. With five wins in five games, Pakistan were the only team to remain unbeaten and progress to the semi-finals of the high-voltage tournament.
On the other hand, Bangladesh endured a dismal performance and failed to register a single win in the five league games of the Super 12s. With an aim to build the team for the upcoming World Cup in less than a year, the two sides on the opposite end of the spectrum are now locking horns in a three-match series.
Over the past couple of years, the sluggish surface on offer at the Shere Bangla Stadium in Mirpur has made run-scoring difficult for the batters. In the first game, the Tigers struggled to get going and crawled their way to 127/7 in their quota of 20 overs. While most people expected Pakistan to chase the total down at ease and in minimum overs, the formidable batting unit of the side took the match deep in the last over and got over the line with four balls to spare.
Openers setting the toneTwo of the leading run-scorers in the shortest format of the game this year, the onus of the batting unit will rely heavily on Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. The duo have amassed 833 runs and 1044 runs respectively to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility of the side and lay a solid foundation at the top of the order. Along with the pair of Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, Babar and Rizwan hold the record for five-century partnerships, which is the joint-most in this format. They will play a crucial role in making optimum use of the field restrictions and getting the team off to a flying start on a slow surface.
Powerplay woes for the TigersWhile Pakistan have been blessed with a solid opening combination and steady start in most games, the same cannot be said about their counterparts. Bangladesh have struggled to utilise the powerplay and scored a boundary every 8.8 deliveries in the powerplay, which is the worst among the top ten nations this season. The Tigers have scored at a run rate of six resulting in enormous pressure of the middle order of the side to give them much-needed impetus. Mohammad Naim has been one of the bright spots for Bangladesh this season, and the team management would expect the southpaw to showcase shades of aggression and get the team off to a blazing start in the powerplay.
Bowling units in focus
One of the areas of concern for skipper Babar despite their scintillating performance in the World Cup will be the lukewarm performance from the bowling unit this year. In T20Is this season, Pakistan have conceded a boundary every 6.1 deliveries, and the opposition team have scored at a run rate of 8, which is the worst among the top ten nations. While Shaheen Afridi has been brilliant with the new ball and has often given the team a couple of breakthroughs early in the innings, the death bowling will be one of the critical aspects the team will need to work on before the next world event.
On the other hand, surprisingly, Bangladesh have been lethal with the ball and often restricted the opposition to a modest total. The Tigers have conceded a boundary every 7.6 deliveries this year and have an economy rate of 7.2, the best among the top ten nations.
Player to watch out
With Shakib Al Hasan missing the series due to an injury, the three matches will provide Mahedi Hasan with an ideal opportunity to establish himself as an all-rounder. The 26-year old has the skills and the temperament to succeed as a genuine all-rounder, and these games will provide him with a chance to showcase his talent and give the team another solid option along with Shakib.
Pakistan: Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Babar Azam (c), Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Shoaib Malik, Shadab Khan, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Haris Rauf
Bangladesh: Mohammad Naim, Saif Hassan, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Afif Hossain, Mahmudullah(c), Nurul Hasan(w), Aminul Islam, Shoriful Islam, Mahedi Hasan, Taskin Ahmed, Mustafizur Rahman