Pakistan seek dominating end to year
Saturday, December 17
Start time 0930 (0330 GMT)
Bangladesh's abject performance, their status as a Test-playing nation, the need for their players to play more first-class cricket at home as well as against Associate countries to compete better at the highest level, their excessive reliance on a couple of individuals and their reckless batting dominated talk during yet another capitulation in the first Test in Chittagong.
On the same day a revitalised New Zealand pulled off one of their most famous wins, beating Australia by seven runs in a thrilling encounter in Hobart, Bangladesh plunged to another predictable defeat, another innings loss that took their horror run to 10 defeats in 11 Tests. While increasing criticism is something Bangladesh have been at the receiving end of for quite some time, a simultaneous decline in sympathy for their limitations, their results and quality of cricket will be tougher to bear.
Their opponents, on the other hand, have achieved what they expected out of this tour so far. Leading up to a much-awaited series against England in 'home conditions' in the UAE, Pakistan have been dominating and clinical, sweeping the limited-overs games and being ruthless in a Test that had several notable individual achievements. Asad Shafiq notched up his first international century after promising to reach that landmark on more than a few occasions previously; Abdur Rehman settled in nicely in just his second game of the tour, picking up seven wickets; Younis Khan eased to another double-century and Mohammad Hafeez continued a stellar year.
In their final game of 2011, a year of contrasting fortunes for both teams, one emerging strong on the field from the spot-fixing saga and disciplinary issues, and the other seemingly sinking to the abyss after the World Cup, expect another strong show for Pakistan, while Bangladesh will hoping to salvage some pride, if nothing else.
Players to watch out for...
Nazimuddin had a memorable Test debut, making 78 in the second innings. As his partners were failing to preserve their wickets, their impatience and lack of determination glaringly on display, Nazimuddin fought hard in conditions that favoured spinners. His resistance stood out, and offered plenty of promise for a team facing serious problems with its batting.
Azhar Ali scored his maiden Test ton in his 28th innings, against Sri Lanka in the UAE, after a run of consistent performances in the top order. Pakistan have been grooming him as a Test specialist at No.3. He's solid, has sound technique and has delivered against tougher bowling attacks. He'll feel he missed out against Bangladesh in the opening Test, making 26 while the others cashed in, and ahead of the England series he'll strive for a bigger score.
Mohammad Ashraful practiced with the team ahead of this Test, stayed in the same hotel and was, according to the coach Stuart Law, part of the squad before the BCB finally confirmed he was dropped. The late announcement, captain Mushfiqur Rahim said, is something his side had become used to. They've replaced him with Shafiul Islam, a seamer. He should take Rubel Hossain's place; Rubel injured his right shoulder in Chittagong. Naeem Islam missed the first Test due to illness, but should take Ashraful's place if fit.
Bangladesh: 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Nazimuddin, 3 Shahriar Nafees, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt and wk), 5 Naeem Islam, 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Nasir Hossain, 8 Mahmudullah, 9 Elias Sunny, 10 Shahadat Hossain, 11 Shafiul Islam.
Pakistan have two reserve seamers in Mohammad Khalil and Mohammad Talha, but it remains to be seen if either of them is given a go.
Pakistan: 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Taufeeq Umar, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Adnan Akmal (wk), 8 Abdur Rehman, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, Aizaz Cheema.
Pitch and conditions
The weather forecast is encouraging with sunny skies predicted for the next five days. The track in Mirpur has traditionally favoured turn and bounce, something the spin-strong attacks from either team won't mind. Batting first has been the way to go for the most part here.
Stats and trivia
- Nazimuddin became the 10th Bangladesh batsman to score 50 or more in an innings in his debut Test.
- Misbah-ul-Haq is 83 short of 2000 runs in Tests.
"We (Pakistan) have to be professional and keep this out of our minds and concentrate on what we are doing."
Misbah-ul-Haq will not be bothering too much about Bangladesh's problems.
"Our target will be to finish off well so that we can go into our next international commitment with the memory that yes, we did well in the last game."
Mushfiqur Rahim hopes for a feeling that has eluded him and his team for a good part of this year
Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo