Want to see Hridoy and Naim score big

Bangladesh's players celebrate after winning the Asia Cup 2023 one-day international (ODI) cricket match between Bangladesh and Afghanistan at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on 3 September, 2023AFP

Bangladesh is set to start their super four campaign riding on confidence but their opponent is tough. I see some challenges in the Pakistan match. Losing an in-form batter, Najmul Hossain, is the biggest shock for Bangladesh. Pakistan will also play in their own conditions. They showed their batting and bowling skills in this tournament respectively against Nepal and India. They obviously can be proud about their performance.

However, the return of Litton Das can be a plus point for Bangladesh. The Shakib-led side played their last match in this very ground. But it would be tough to repeat the amazing performance they showcased against Afghanistan. The spinners of Pakistan may be yet to show their best, still their bowling attack is best. If they bowl first Shaheen Shah Afridi and others will get seam movement, and even reverse swing at the back end of the innings. And, obviously the searing pace will create discomfort for Bangladesh batters.

Due to the long innings of Najmul and Mehidy in the two previous matches other batters did not have enough time in the crease. But I hope they will be eager for the chances. I believe, Bangladesh will not try to play with eight batters in such a match. Rather they will need an extra bowler. In that case either Shamim Hossain or Afif Hossain has to be dropped. I reckon Shamim should play. Observing the Tuesday match between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, I think there will be support for spinners. That is why, the inclusion of Nasum Ahmed may become vital.

With the absence of Najmul there is no chance of keeping the winning combination. The wicket could be a bit on the slower side as the ground is set to stage the third match in four days although there are several wickets there. It is to see whether any grass will be left on the pitch.

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I want a big innings from Towhid Hridoy today. I have the highest expectation of him among the budding players. I think he should take some time to build the innings. He was in a hurry in the last two matches. He can cover-up the strike-rate if he stays in the wicket for some time. It is high time for Mohammad Naim to repay the faith of selectors in him although he is going to face Afridi, one of the most fearsome bowlers against the top order.

If bats first, it is vital to keep wickets in the first 10 overs. In case of run chase, the batters may have to attack from the word go. Shakib-Mushfiq is tantamount to Rohit-Kohli to us. I hope they will fulfil the expectations. Shamim is also promising.

Bangladesh batted first in both the previous matches. This match is going to be interesting. It is to see where Miraz is sent in the batting order. I don’t think he should be sent to open as he was successful in the last match. The job may be difficult for him against the Pakistan attack. He should be on seven or eight, if necessary, may be used at the middle order.

Like the batters, bowlers will also face a sterner test than the last two matches. The bowling attack of Bangladesh is good, but it is foremost important not to lose the way in such a match. This approach is the most important aspect whether batting or bowling first.

Super four phase will not be easy. It is to see how others showcase their performances after losing Najmul Hossain due to an injury. The eleven should give an impression that the team is playing to win. A big tournament like the World Cup is forthcoming. Today’s match may give the signal whether we want to reach the Asia Cup final. It is an opportunity for Bangladesh to show the ability of the team after losing Najmul.

* Gazi Ashraf Hossain, former skipper, Bangladesh Cricket Team
** The article was originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Syed Faiz Ahmed