By Aman Huda
In my Group B predictions article, I ended up being very wrong about one or two things. Although Pakistan can achieve a finals spot, they have came nowhere near competing with India. In the group stage, Pakistan was embarrassing to watch against India, being bowled out for a mere score of 165 and losing by eight wickets. Later, in the Super Four round, Pakistan became a humiliation, failing to defend 237 and losing by nine wickets. With that, India qualified for the Finals on Friday and will take on already-eliminated Afghanistan in a dead rubber match.
Pakistan is not out of the competition yet. Their wins against Hong Kong and Afghanistan put them up against Bangladesh for a spot in the Finals. Bangladesh’s record is similar to that of Pakistan’s, defeating Sri Lanka and Afghanistan along the way, and losing to India by seven wickets. What Bangladesh will have in favor of them compared to Pakistan is confident batsmen. On a pitch like Abu Dhabi’s, the match will be tough for the batsmen and it will be down to which batsmen is that extra bit smarter or skilled. Pakistan definitely has skilled batsmen in the likes of Shoaib Malik or Babar Azam, but Bangladesh’s batsmen have performed better so far in this tournament. So far in the tournament, they have had three half-centuries and a century from Mushfiqur Rahim against Sri Lanka.
Another advantage Bangladesh will have is the poor performances from Pakistani bowlers so far in the tournament. Mohammad Amir has gone seven matches without a wicket, and the spinners, Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz, have picked up just five wickets in four matches total. Surprisingly, the fielding has been poor too, with six catches being dropped against Afghanistan.
However, Pakistan isn’t done for. Their batsmen Imam Ul-Haq, Babar Azam, and Shoaib Malik performed well against Afghanistan, and Malik and Azam continued their excellent run against India. The lower order with Shadab Khan and Hasan Ali is capable of adding crucial runs towards the end, which can hand Pakistan the advantage towards the end of innings.
The main concerns as far as batting goes will belong to Fakhar Zaman, who was given out for duck against both India and Afghanistan. More importantly, the skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed, who has averaged just 11.4 in runs in 2018. The captain will need to improve his performances in order to provide example and a morale boost to the whole team.
Bangladesh will look towards the experience of Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al-Hasan to bat excellent against the world-renowned Pakistani bowlers, but Al-Hasan’s fitness has been in doubt throughout the tournament. The main man for Bangladesh, who will look to restrict Pakistan, is seamer Mustafizur Rahman, who has four wickets so far in the tournament.
Pakistan will take on Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Wednesday at 15:30 (3:30 PM) UAE Time or 7:30 AM Eastern Time. The winner advances to the Finals on Friday to take on India.