Ask the Bangladesh players and many of them will tell you that playing at Eden Gardens has been a lifelong dream. Several generations of Bangladeshi cricketers missed out on that opportunity but on Wednesday, Mashrafe Mortaza will lead his side to their first match at the ground since 1990.
They are unlikely to be in for an easy ride against a Pakistan side that has too many things to prove after a disastrous Asia Cup and the subsequent criticism back home. Pakistan will bank on the batting form of Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal but they would also desperately want their top three – Sharjeel Khan, Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez – to fire.
The bowling attack will rely largely on Mohammad Amir, though Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz will look to keep Bangladesh’s top-order quiet. Shahid Afridi, Malik and, perhaps, Imad Wasim – Pakistan’s spin attack – will have a tough battle against the middle-order.
Bangladesh would be worried about the formation of their bowling attack. Taskin Ahmed is set to play; Taskin and Arafat Sunny went to Chennai on March 14 to have their actions tested afterthey were reported last week. Mustafizur Rahman’s fitness, as a result, would be very important if Bangladesh are to field a strong bowling attack. The bowler will be assessed prior to the match on Wednesday. Mushfiqur Rahim’s batting form is another worry but so far Tamim Iqbal has spoken loudly with his bat with knocks of 83* and 103* in the qualifier stage.
Bangladesh will also be pleased with Shakib Al Hasan’s rediscovery of his timing with the bat and contributions with the ball. Sabbir Rahman and Mahmudullah have also been in good form. Al-Amin Hossain has risen to No. 6 in the T20 bowling rankings and will have to come up with the goods for Bangladesh in the last few overs.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
Sabbir Rahman has been Bangladesh’s go-to batsman in the top-order in 2016 with 388 runs in 12 T20I innings at an average of 43.11, including two fifties. He can look to Tamim for lessons on building a T20 innings, as he has shown a tendency to throw it away after getting set.
In his last ICC event, Shahid Afridi‘s leg spin and big-hitting down the order will be in focus, as he looks to steer the team out of their recent run of poor form.
If Mustafizur Rahman is declared fit, it will be a straight swap between him and Abu Hider.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Sabbir Rahman, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Mohammad Mithun, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 9 Al-Amin Hossain, 10 Mustafizur Rahman/Abu Hider, 11 Taskin Ahmed
Pakistan might opt for the extra spinner in Imad Wasim. They will pitch Ahmed Shehzad in the opening slot while Wahab Riaz is likely to play ahead of Mohammad Sami.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Sharjeel Khan, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi (capt), 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Mohammad Amir 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Mohammad Irfan
Pitch and conditions
The Kolkata pitch offered turn to the spinners in the warm-up match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan on Monday, though there was also moderate bounce. The weather is forecast to be good for this game.
Stats and trivia
- Bangladesh have played Eden Gardens only once previously, in an ODI against Sri Lanka in 1990.
- Bangladesh have won the last two T20I encounters between the two sides, most recently in the Asia Cup earlier this month.
- By playing this game, Pakistan will equal Sri Lanka’s record of most matches (31) in the World T20.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84