Pakistan aren't renowned for learning from their mistakes quickly, but over the weekend, this side righted one wrong from six years ago. In 2015, days after the World Cup ended, Pakistan went to Bangladesh for a three-match ODI series and a solitary T20I. Undercooked, perhaps even unmotivated, they found themselves flayed by the home side, who ultimately sent Saeed Ajmal into international retirement. In 2021, with Pakistan having to turn up in Bangladesh again to play a limited-overs series just five days after another World Cup concluded
, they have shown none of the hangovers from 2015, taking the most efficient path to a series win
That renders the third game a dead rubber in what is already a relatively low-profile series, but Pakistan's rise in the format has meant a fair bit of jostling for places in the starting XI. With Mohammad Hafeez
returning to the fray and a slew of fast bowlers and power hitters waiting in the wings, any opportunity for this side is an opportunity to impress given the next T20 World Cup is less than a year away. That means every match, even dead rubbers, remain important as teams continue to work their combinations out, though it's probably worth noting conditions in Bangladesh might as well be on a different planet to what Australia will have in store
The home side are in freefall and it might have some way to run yet. Series wins against Australia and New Zealand before the T20 World Cup turned out to be completely irrelevant when it came to performances at the tournament, with Bangladesh failing to win a single Super 12s game, while the two sides they vanquished on home soil competed in the final. Returning to familiar comforts against Pakistan, too, hasn't given them any respite, and two fairly indifferent performances, despite the return of a raucous crowd, see them playing for pride on Monday.
There's a whiff of the unsettled behind-the-scenes as well. The board came in for criticism after Bangladesh's shoddy showing at the T20 World Cup, and when senior player Mushfiqur Rahim was rested - ostensibly injured - for this series, he came out and stated, unequivocally
, that he was fit to play. The absence of Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal for different reasons has exposed Bangladesh's lack of depth, and in these circumstances, playing a resurgent Pakistan simply comes at a bad time for them.
Bangladesh: LLLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
If Bangladesh were hoping to unearth someone new in Tamim and Soumya Sarkar's absence, the openers
in this series have only illustrated how heavily Bangladesh rely on those senior players. Both games have seen the hosts on the back foot from the outset, Mohammad Naim
and Saif Hassan
struggling to take advantage of the field restrictions. Across the two games, the openers have scored a combined four runs in 20 deliveries, allowing Pakistan to take high-impact top order wickets cheaply while using up precious powerplay time in the process. It isn't as if they're batting when they would rather not, given Bangladesh won both tosses and chose to put runs on the board. They cannot afford to let Pakistan's new-ball bowlers run roughshod over them for a third successive game.
In a crowded field of Pakistan fast bowlers, Mohammad Wasim
has found a way to shine. Having warmed the bench for the entirety of the T20 World Cup, Wasim was brought in for Bangladesh, arguably the most challenging place for an express pace bowler to make their mark. He has been Pakistan's best bowler in the series so far, following up figures of 2 for 24 in the first game with 3-0-9-1 to hamstring Bangladesh's innings on Saturday. With competition for places hotting up ahead of a home series against West Indies and a visit from Australia looming early next year, a player like Wasim, who generally finds himself on the fringes, needs to take every opportunity to shine, dead rubber or otherwise.
Bangladesh announced late on Saturday that pace bowler Kamrul Islam Rabbi and batter Parvez Hossain Emon were added to their squad for the third game. Both players are yet to make their T20I debuts.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Mohammad Naim, 2 Saif Hassan, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 4 Yasir Ali, 5 Mahmudullah (capt), 6 Afif Hossain, 7 Nurul Hasan (wk), 8 Mahedi Hasan, 9 Aminul Islam/Kamrul Islam Rabbi, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Taskin Ahmed
Pakistan have tinkered with their line-up in the first two games, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see that continue. Hasan Ali and Shaheen Afridi each got a rest, so Haris Rauf could be in line for the same in the final game. Shoaib Malik will miss the game due to the illness of his child and will depart for Dubai before the match.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Fakhar Zaman, 4 Haider Ali, 5 Khushdil Shah, 6 Shadab Khan, 7 Mohammad Nawaz, 8 Hasan Ali, 9 Mohammad Wasim, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Shaheen Afridi
The pitches in Dhaka were what we've come to expect from Bangladesh, and the two-paced nature and lack of bounce kept scores low in the first two games. The weather should not play spoilsport.