A thumping win over Afghanistan in the group-stage was enough for Bangladesh to ensure a seat in the Super 4 phase of the 2023 Asia Cup.
Bangladesh still haven’t officially qualified for the Super 4 and will not till the final Group B match between Sri Lanka and Afghanistan ends on Tuesday.
However, no matter who wins the match and by what margin, Bangladesh are certain to finish in the top-two of Group B and take part in the Super 4.
According to the tournament schedule, India and Pakistan, who are in Group A, will be seeded as A1 and A2 respectively and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, who are in Group B, will be seeded as B1 and B2 respectively in the Super 4 phase regardless of whether they top their group or finish as runners-up.
If the third team in Group A and B, Nepal and Afghanistan respectively, qualify for the Super 4, they would take the seed of the team that they replace.
Meaning, if Afghanistan defeat Sri Lanka in the ongoing match by a huge margin, they will knockout the co-hosts’ and take their seed of B1.
This means that on Wednesday, Bangladesh are certain to begin the business end of the competition, the Super 4 phase, with a match against the other host of the tournament, Pakistan, at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
It has been nearly 15 years since the last time Bangladesh played a One-Day International (ODI) against Pakistan in Pakistan.
That match took place in Karachi and incidentally was also part of the Asia Cup. Pakistan pumelled Bangladesh in that game, winning by 10 wickets.
No one from the victorious Pakistan team are currently in the Pakistan squad. However, there is one Bangladeshi player who took part in that match and is still a member of the ODI team.
He is the senior-most player in the current Bangladesh ODI team Mushfiqur Rahim.
Bangladesh’s recent ODI record against Pakistan is quite good considering they have won four out of their last five ODIs against the Asian rivals.
However, three of those victories came in Bangladesh and one came in the UAE. Their record in Pakistan is quite abysmal.
In Pakistan, Bangladesh have played 11 ODIs against the Pakistanis and have tasted defeat every time.
On Wednesday too, Bangladesh will start as the underdogs against the hosts.
Bangladesh batters will have to face a scathing test against the deadly Pakistan pace trio of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf.
The three pacers outdid the star-studded Indian batting line-up in the group-stage encounter, collectively taking all 10 wickets in the match which got abandoned due to rain.
The three pacers will be raring to go against Bangladesh, with the home crowd firmly behind them.
Bangladesh found a solution to their opening problem against Afghanistan by sending Mehidy Hasan Miraz to open the innings alongside Mohammad Naim. The opening partnership yielded 60 runs.
Naim finished on 28 but Miraz went onto score a career-best 112 and Najmul Hossain Shanto made 104 as Bangladesh posted a daunting 334-5, which proved too much for the Afghans.
Having in-form Miraz and Shanto in the top-order could’ve helped Bangladesh against Pakistan. But just one day before the game, Bangladesh received the news that Shanto’s Asia Cup is over due to a hamstring injury.
Shanto’s departure is a huge blow for Bangladesh. However, there is also some good news for the Tigers as the injured Shanto will be replaced by Litton Das.
Litton had initially been removed from the Asia Cup squad due to illness. However, the wicketkeeper-batter has recovered from his illness and has already joined the team in Pakistan.
Whether Litton returns to the opening position or bat lower down the order, that is left to be seen.
The management could demote Miraz and play Litton and Naim as the opening pair but that would seem unfair to Miraz, who had played his career-best knock at the same ground just a few days back.
The think tank could also drop Naim in favour of Litton, but that would mean using two right-handers as openers which is a risky proposition against Shaheen who regularly feasts on right-handed top-order batters.
In that sense, it would perhaps make sense to slot in Litton at No.4 and field an unchanged opening pair and send skipper Shakib Al Hasan in at No.3.
As for the bowling, Bangladesh are likely to continue with the pace trio from the last match of Taskin Ahmed, Hasan Mahmud and Shoriful Islam as the match will take place at the same venue.
The pacers did exceedingly well against Afghanistan on a barren pitch and Shakib also masterfully handled his bowling options.
However against Pakistan, the challenge will be much tougher for Bangladesh as they will have to face higher calibre batters like Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed.
A victory against Pakistan will set Bangladesh well on course on their quest to play the final.
They will next play either Sri Lanka or Afghanistan on 9 September in Colombo and then face India on 15 September in Colombo.
To play the final, Bangladesh need to win at least two of their three games in the Super 4 phase. Technically, they can make it to the final with two wins but for that to happen the results of the other matches will have to go their way.