Bangladesh are at long last playing a Test match in Pakistan, but after a string of unfavourable results, can they reverse it against a powerful Pakistan side still riding the high of a return to their true home?
Pakistan v Bangladesh, 1st Test
Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi
Friday, 7 February - Tuesday, 11 February; 10:00am local, 05:00am GMT
After much uncertainty, Bangladesh are finally playing a Test match in Pakistan, their first in over 16 years, and only their fifth ever in the country. To further illustrate how far back that was, Bangladesh were led by Khaled Mahmud and Pakistan’s middle order was comprised of golden boys Inzamam-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf. As you might have imagined, a lot has changed in both sides since.
These are still early days in the return of Test cricket to Pakistan, but the country’s new brigade has already shown the kind of dominance it can exert at home, as seen in their 263-run win over Sri Lanka in December last year.
Congruent to their history, Pakistan’s bowling attack possesses a lot of strength. Mohammad Abbas brings fearsome pace, Shaheen Shah Afridi is a menacing prospect with his height, bounce and lateral movement, while the 16-year-old Naseem Shah has made the world sit up and take note of his prodigious talents.
Bangladesh are coming off a winless 2019, but their bid to rectify that has hardly been made easier by the absence of their two stalwarts, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim. As has often been the case, much of the onus will fall on Bangladesh’s spinners, while their batting will rest heavily on the returning Tamim Iqbal, who recently struck Bangladesh’s highest first-class score ever, when he racked up 334 for East Zone, against Central Zone in the Bangladesh Cricket League.
What happened last time
Azhar Ali’s double hundred, and centuries from Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq buried Bangladesh under a mountainous 557/8 declared. Bangladesh couldn’t manage as much in both their innings put together and crumbled to a 328-run defeat.
Rawalpindi has had a penchant for throwing up flat tracks over the years, so expect lots of runs in the initial stages of the Test. This should be a traditional Test match track that deteriorates steadily as the game progresses.
The only Test to have been played in Rawalpindi in the last 15 years was marred by rain, with less than two days’ worth of play possible. But if you stretch the timeline to go further back, India consigned Pakistan to an innings defeat in the last completed Test here, to record their first, and so far only, series win in Pakistan.