With Shakib returning, BD ready to face Pakistan

Published December 4, 2021
DHAKA: Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi (R) and captain Babar Azam play football during a practice session at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium on Friday.—AFP
DHAKA: Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi (R) and captain Babar Azam play football during a practice session at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium on Friday.—AFP

DHAKA: Emboldened by the return of all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh are ready to finally challenge Pakistan.

The teams will start their second and final Test on Saturday. Pakistan won the first by eight wickets and also swept Bangladesh 3-0 in a Twenty20 series before that.

Shakib missed all of those matches with a hamstring injury sustained during the Twenty20 World Cup. He was included into the first Test squad but then failed a late fitness test.

“For me, as a captain, everything gets easier when Shakib is around,” Bangladesh skipper Mominul Haque said. “Everything is fine with him at this moment. You know he is a player with two in one. He is such a player who can give us the combination we are comfortable with. We now can return to our traditional combination of four bowlers and seven batsmen.”

Mominul, however, is waiting for a fitness report on fast bowler Taskin Ahmed, who injured his right hand during the third T20 against Pakistan.

Bangladesh’s pace bowling struggled in the first Test, claiming only two wickets. Pakistan’s fast bowlers had 16 wickets.

“We have to assess his condition tomorrow before the toss,” Mominul said of Taskin. “But since New Zealand series is coming up, I don’t think we’ll take any risk with him.”

Bangladesh have had some success in recent years in Dhaka’s Mirpur stadium, where they have won five of their last seven Tests, including victories against both England and Australia.

Spinners played a key role in their success but Mominul said they were unlikely to follow the same strategy against Pakistan.

“Everyone from the sub-continent plays spin very well,” he said. “So it is better not to give them a spin wicket. I think everyone else would do the same. I prefer a flat wicket.”

Bangladesh’s top order faltered in both innings of the first test, being reduced to 49-4 and 39-4, which also played a key role in the loss.

“The first hour of the test cricket is always important but unfortunately our top order collapsed in the first hour in both innings of the first Test,” Mominul said. “I think everyone is now aware of how important the first hour is. Our main strength is our batting. We have to bat at least six sessions to put pressure on Pakistan bowlers. We are here to win the game, so we hope well come back strongly.”

SHAHEEN LAUDS PACE PARTNER HASAN

Pakistan have won 11 out of 12 matches between the two sides, with one draw.

“We will play the same aggressive brand of cricket that we showed in the first Test,” Pakistan pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi said, adding he enjoyed bowling with Hasan Ali as the latter helped him put opponents under pressure.

Shaheen and Hasan have emerged as Pakistan’s new pace bowling pair in 2021, taking 83 wickets in Tests between them.

“I enjoy bowling with him. This year he has 39 wickets, I have 44. We bowl in partnership and plan between ourselves,” Shaheen told reporters.

If a batsman plays well, he added, the pair plan “how we can hold or confuse him. This is why I enjoy bowling with him. He is a fighter”.

Hasan and Shaheen shone in Pakistan’s eight-wicket win over Bangladesh in the opening Test in Chittagong, each claiming five-fors.

Hasan finished with 5-51 in the first innings as Pakistan bowled out Bangladesh for 330 runs, while Shaheen’s 5-32 in the second innings kept the target within the visitors’ reach.

“The wickets in Asia are more or less slow. People say spinners get more assistance here. But if you are physically strong and have the strength it is possible to be effective here. You need to bowl in a partnership,” Shaheen added.

The hosts will be desperate to make a comeback in the second leg of the series, but Shaheen promised them no let-up.

“Momentum is good and the team combination is also brilliant,” he said. “The boys are ready for the second Test. Of course, we will fight and end the series on a good note.”

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2021

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