LAHORE: In-form hosts Pakistan face Bangladesh in the first Super Four match of the Asia Cup here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday.
This will be the last Asia Cup match Pakistan — the original hosts of the six-nation event — will be staging as the rest of the Super Four games and the final will be held in Sri Lanka.
Though Pakistan hold an impressive head-to-head ODI record against Bangladesh (32 wins, five losses in 37 games), the green-shirts would be wary of Shakib Al Hasan and company who would surely be looking to upset the hosts.
Pakistan’s last outing, against India in their Group ‘A’ match in Pallekele on Saturday, saw the Babar Azam-led side only bowl before the clash was washed out.
All of India’s 10 wickets were shared among Pakistan pacers Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf, with the trio putting up an exceptional performance at the start and towards the end of the innings.
In the middle overs, however, Pakistan spinners Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz struggled to capitalise on the team’s flying start which helped Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya resurrect the Indian innings with a 138-run stand.
To avoid the repetition of such a situation, Pakistan have named pace bowling all-rounder Faheem Ashraf in place of Nawaz in their playing XI for the Bangladesh clash. The rest of the home side has been retained.
The Babar Azam-captained Pakistan look favourites to win the Asia Cup with arguably the most talented side in the tournament, but the team are focusing on one match at a time.
“The main focus is on tomorrow’s match and on going to Sri Lanka with a win,” Naseem told reporters at the sidelines of Pakistan’s practice session at the National Cricket Academy, adding that the tournament’s final was too “far away” to be thought of.
The pace sensation, however, said Pakistan wanted to “play good cricket” to achieve their ambitions of winning the ongoing Asia Cup and the World Cup, scheduled to be held in India from Oct 5 to Nov 19.
To a question, Naseem said that focus should be on coming cricket and not on the past that what Pakistan did in the past.
The pacer said that playing conditions in Sri Lanka and Pakistan were different.
“As we have played lot of cricket in the recent past in Sri Lanka, so we know the conditions better and hopefully Pakistan will perform well to win the Asia Cup,” he said.
On Pakistan team’s travelling schedule in the Asia Cup (from Multan to Sri Lanka and then Sri Lanka to Lahore and now again to Sri Lanka after Wednesday’s match), Naseem said as professionals all players had to accept it and could do nothing about it.
The right-arm pace sensation said he would like to bowl like myself as no one could match the skill and ability of others.
“We can learn good things from other bowlers but no one can turn completely to match others,” he said.
INJURED NAJMUL OUT OF ASIA CUP
Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s top-order batsman Najmul Hossain Shanto was ruled out of the remainder of the Asia Cup with a hamstring injury and faces a race to be fit for the World Cup.
Left-handed Najmul is the leading scorer at the Asia Cup with 89 and 104 against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, respectively to help Bangladesh into the last four.
Najmul felt some discomfort in his left hamstring during his innings against Afghanistan in Lahore on Sunday, Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) said.
“The player had complained of hamstring pain during batting and could not field. We had an MRI scan done confirming a muscle tear,” team physio Bayjedul Islam Khan said.
“As a precaution, Shanto will not take any further part in the tournament and will be returning home to start rehab and prepare for the World Cup.”
The 25-year-old Najmul is Bangladesh’s top run-scorer in 2023 across all formats with 1,078 runs, including four hundreds and five fifties.
News of his injury came a day after batting team-mate Liton Das was declared fit to join the squad having recovered from a fever that forced him to miss the Asia Cup group-stage matches.
Bangladesh have also lost fast bowler Ebadot Hossain while all-rounder Mehidy Hasan Miraz retired hurt against Afghanistan after making a career-best 112.
Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2023