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After a little more than a week of exciting cricket, Asia Cup 2018 is about to be concluded. India have already qualified for the finale and rested a few of their key players in their match against Afghanistan. However, Pakistan and Bangladesh won't have the luxury of resting their players as they're meeting each other in a virtual semi-final clash on Wednesday, 26th September at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi.
While Bangladesh defeated Afghanistan in a closely fought encounter on Sunday, Pakistan are bruised and battered following their nine-wicket loss to India in the last game. This will be a new game and both teams will be looking to go in with a clear mind. With the loser of this met set to fly back home and the winner to Dubai, it is expected to be a hard-fought contest which promises to be a thriller of a match.
The men in green have played four matches in the competition and have lost four of those. Notably, both their losses were against India. Although they've managed to beat Afghanistan and Hong Kong in their journey thus far, but have largely appeared to be pedestrian in this competition.
Pakistan's bowling in their last encounter, against India, was toothless as both Indian openers went on to score centuries. Therefore, Pakistan may opt to include the experienced speedster in Junaid Khan at the expense of Mohammad Amir, who hasn't been in the best of form since the beginning of the year. Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali weren't as bad in the previous games and are likely to retain their respective places in the team. The men in green are being heavily criticised for not including ample spinning options and given the conditions at Abu Dhabi, both Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan are expected to play a vital role for Pakistan in the upcoming match.
Although Imam Ul Haq and Fakhar Zaman have scored plenty of runs in the run-up to this competition, most of their matches were against Zimbabwe. Barring against Hong Kong and Afghanistan, their openers have looked rather off-color. Just when Fakhar appeared to be getting into the groove in the last match, he was trapped in front by Kuldeep Yadav while playing a premeditated irresponsible shot. Amid the darkness, there have been some pretty good knocks too. Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, and Asif Ali all looked good in the last outing.
After a humiliation faced from India in their last match, Pakistan have a huge task at hand in this virtual semi-final. Pakistan have done brilliantly in the recent knock-out matches. In addition to that, Pakistan have never lost to Bangladesh in a multi-nation tournament. Barring their losses against India, Pakistan have been clinical in their recent games and it's not going to be easy to win against them for Bangladesh in the upcoming fixture.
Imam-ul-Haq, F Zaman, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Junaid Khan, Shaheen Afridi.
Bangladesh managed to come from behind against spirited Afghanistan to scrape a two-run win in their last super four matches. They have kept their hopes alive to qualify for the finale and they'd have to do really well to get there, where India await. Bangladesh haven't done well against Pakistan historically, but they've have improved a lot in the recent times and aren't a team to be taken lightly.
Bangladesh will be relying heavily on the Bogra-born batsmen, Mushfiqur Rahim, who was exceptional in their opening Asia Cup game, against Sri Lanka, but hasn't been able to repeat anything similar. Shakib Al Hasan has been one of their most reliable players, both with the bat and the ball, in the recent times and he will need to do well in a crunch game. The absence of Tamim Iqbal has really hurt them at the top order and with Nazmul Hossain Shanto not amongst the runs, we might well see Soumya Sarkar play instead of him. Liton Das and Imrul Kayes looked particularly settled in the last match and are likely to play a vital role in this rather brittle-looking lineup.
With a battery of bowlers suitable to Abu Dhabi's conditions, Bangladeshi bowling attack appears to be more reliable as compared to their batting. Mashrafe Mortaza did pretty well to pick up two wickets in the last match especially after being hammered in his opening few overs. With Mustafizur Rahman and Shakib Al Hasan at their disposal, Bangladesh have a decent bowling attack considering the turn and grip surfaces have offered here in Asia Cup 2018.
Soumya Sarkar, Liton Das, Mohammad Mithun, Mominul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah, Imrul Kayes, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mehidy Hasan, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman.
The team winning the toss is expected to bat first and put runs on the board in this high-pressure game.
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It's been pretty hot in Abu Dhabi over the course of the seasons and the conditions aren't expected to be soothing this time either. It's going to be another hard day for players with temperature likely to hover in the early 40s. The surface is expected to behave just as it has in the tournament. There will be ample turn for the spinners and scoring with the older ball won't be as easy as it will be with the new ball. The team batting first should be looking to score a total in excess of 270.
With most of the matches in the latter half of the Asia Cup going down to the wire, the excitement has really grown leaps and bounds. Being a virtual semi-final, this match, too, will be of significant importance and a high-pressure encounter. The absence of Tamim Iqbal at the top of the order could hurt Bangladesh at the top of the order. Pakistan are a better balanced-side on paper and they go in as firm favorites to win the match and ensure a grand India-Pakistan finale.
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