Tour review

Pakistan vs Bangladesh in 2019-20

Shahid Hashmi

Twenty20 internationals (3): Pakistan 2, Bangladesh 0 Test match (1): Pakistan 1 (60pts), Bangladesh 0 (0pts)

The odd shape of this on-off tour was finalised only ten days before it began. In the end, the boards agreed a milking-stool approach: the first leg would comprise three Lahore Twenty20s from January 24-27; the second a Test in Rawalpindi, beginning on February 7; and then a single ODI followed by another Test, both at Karachi in early April. None of the legs was scheduled to last more than a week, while the gap between the second and third was long enough for Bangladesh to host Zimbabwe, and for the Pakistan Super League.

The tripartite nature of the tour was the result of protracted negotiation and frantic correspondence about player safety. While the Bangladesh board were willing to play Twenty20s in Pakistan, they had initially insisted on neutral venues for the Tests, despite their security team apparently being satisfied with the type of precautions usually reserved for heads of state. Pakistan's determination to play both Tests at home was based on the successful visit by Sri Lanka in 2019. Now, the PCB were prepared to go the extra mile. As well as the heightened security measures, they twice sent chartered planes to Bangladesh to collect the tourists. There would have been a third, had the coronavirus pandemic not halted cricket the world over.

The Bangladeshis were not at full strength. In mid-January, Mushfiqur Rahim confirmed he was pulling out of the tour. "There's no bigger sin for me than not playing for Bangladesh," he said. "But I had denied an offer to play in the PSL after knowing that the tournament will be entirely held in Pakistan. My family didn't agree with it." Other players might have followed suit, but the BCB reminded them of their contractual obligations.

They were, though, already without another senior player. Shakib Al Hasan was serving a ban for not reporting fixing offers - and some believed his absence helped explain the board's reluctance to agree the Test schedule. Bangladesh had not played a match of any type in Pakistan since 2008, and their last Test had been five years before that. All 16 games had brought defeat, but there were hopes of giving the hosts a run for their money. It never happened.

Even though Pakistan had lost six straight Twenty20 internationals since defeating South Africa at Centurion in February 2019, they were clinging on at the top of the ICC rankings. Bangladesh, meanwhile, had beaten India at Delhi in November, and were better value than eighth place suggested. But by the time the third game was washed out, Pakistan had claimed the series.

Tamim Iqbal looked comfortable in both matches, but totals of 141 and 136 hardly troubled Pakistan. The experienced trio of Shoaib Malik, Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez all hit unbeaten half-centuries.

The Test was similarly one-sided. Four home batsmen passed 50, with Shan Masood and Babar going on to hundreds. For Bangladesh, Mithun Ali's 63 was the lone cause for celebration. Throw in a command performance by the latest pair of young Pakistan pace bowlers, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah, and the inevitable result was resounding victory. Afridi, a 19-year-old left-armer, claimed four in the first innings, but was upstaged in the second by Naseem who, a week before his 17th birthday, became the youngest to take a Test hat-trick.

With Mohammad Amir recently retired from Test cricket, their arrival was well timed. Wins in both formats brought relief for head coach Misbah-ul-Haq, who had come under pressure after a disastrous tour of Australia. The opposite was true for Russell Domingo, the South African in charge of Bangladesh, though it probably didn't help that five of his support team were elsewhere.

It was a tricky baptism for Ottis Gibson, appointed Bangladesh's fast-bowling coach as the tour began, after Charl Langeveldt had joined South Africa less than five months into the job. However, the successful staging of the games did help persuade overseas players - if not Mushfiqur - to join the PSL. The abrupt end of the tour brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic meant the Test series was only half completed. Pakistan banked 60 World Championship points, with another 60 at stake whenever the postponed Karachi game could be rearranged.

© John Wisden & Co