Pakistan must avoid whitewash to maintain seventh position in the ICC ODI team rankings
“Given what we did in the World Cup, if the youngsters continue to do well, we should be able to maintain the level of performance,” Shakib Al Hasan had said before the start of Bangladesh’s three-match One-Day International series against Pakistan. The team has done just that, backing up Shakib’s words by its performances in the first two ODIs.
Though Pakistan had some good periods, Bangladesh ensured that both contests were fairly one-sided ones. Going into the third and final ODI in Mirpur on Wednesday (April 22), Bangladesh has a chance to complete a ninth ODI series whitewash. Previous, it had registered two whitewashes each against Kenya, Zimbabwe and New Zealand, and one apiece against Ireland and West Indies. This is a far cry from the time when the host lost nine consecutive matches at home and went winless for most of 2014.
The turnaround began with a 5-0 win over Zimbabwe in November. Since then, Bangladesh has won all seven games played on home soil, split by its quarterfinal entry at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
In the first two ODIs, Tamim Iqbal justified the selectors’ continued faith with consecutive centuries - 132 and an unbeaten 116 - after a fairly average showing at the World Cup, where he scored only 145 runs in six games at an average of 25.66.
That the home team has already sealed the series is largely because of the batting of Tamim and Mushfiqur Rahim. Rahim has been at his fluent best, with 171 runs in the series at 85.50. What has troubled Pakistan most is that the two batsmen have clicked together and been involved in two century stands, taking the game away from the visitor.
This third ODI presents Tamim with the opportunity to get to a unique record. If he goes on to score another century, he’ll become the first Bangladesh batsman to score three consecutive centuries in ODIs. Mahmudullah Riyad and Shahriar Nafees have scores two consecutive centuries so far.
“We need to go up the rankings. If we can win against higher-ranked sides, we will get more points. Ultimately, we have to stay within the top eight to play in the World Cup. We have been around No. 9 and 10 for a long time. We got up to No. 8 for a brief period, but now we have to get to that level and stay there,” Shakib said, throwing light on his team’s ambitions. Even if Bangladesh wins the final ODI, it’ll not move up the table, though it will gain three ratings points.
There has been a settled look to the Bangladesh side, now at full strength following the return in the second ODI of Mashrafe Mortaza, the regular captain. Mortaza sat out the first ODI after he was suspended for one game for an over-rate offence.
Pakistan, by contrast, has been patchy so far, with a new-look side struggling to get its act together under Azhar Ali, the new ODI captain. While it was the bowling that let the team down in the first match, the batsman failed to capitalise on the starts they got in the second match.
Top oder woes continued to hurt the team in the second ODI as well. What the think-tank will hope is for experienced players like Mohammad Hafeez to make useful contributions with the bat. Pakistan made a decent start in the first ODI but then lost two quick wickets - including that of Hafeez - that hurt the team’s chase. Hafeez failed to open his account in the second match and Pakistan was reduced to 37 for 2 after a cautious start, and ended up scoring a modest 239 for 6.
A loss in the third ODI will mean Pakistan will slip to the eighth position in the ICC ODI Team rankings. The defeat will leave the visitor with 92 points - level with West Indies - but the Caribbeans will have a slender 0.13 point advantage when the fractions are calculated.
The visitor will be buoyed by the arrival of Umar Gul, who joined the team after Ehsan Adil was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Gul is already a part of the Twenty20 International squad.
The teams will play a one-off T20I following by two Test matches at the conclusion of the ODI series.
Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Nasir Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Arafat Sunny, Rubel Hossain, Taskin Ahmed.
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali (capt), Haris Sohail, Saad Nasim, Mohammad Rizwan, Fawad Alam, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Rahat Ali/Umar Gul.