This is as much a misery derby as it is a subcontinental one. But for England’s doomed title defence, Bangladesh and Pakistan are the two sides at the bottom of the form table, having combined to lose their last nine matches in this competition. In a sequence of events that has become wearily predictable, off-field drama has overshadowed the lack of on-field accomplishment. Shakib Al Hasan bizarrely flew back home to Bangladesh to work on his batting technique after their game against South Africa, while in Pakistan, accusations of unpaid salaries, player power, and PCB incompetence and malfeasance have already relegated World Cup performances to a sideshow.
While Pakistan are trying to delay going back home for at least one more game, all Bangladesh have left is to attempt to book a flight to Pakistan in 2025. The ICC’s surprise late announcement that the top eight finishers at this World Cup would secure qualification to the 2025 Champions Trophy means Bangladesh have something to fight for after their 87-run defeat to the Netherlands officially made them the first side to be knocked out of semi-finals contention. New Zealand’s narrow defeat to Australia, meanwhile, has opened a tiny window of opportunity for Pakistan to still sneak through in historically Pakistan-esque circumstances, provided they win their remaining games and New Zealand lose theirs.
Neither of these sides, though, has earned the right to be talking about the semi-finals. Bangladesh’s campaign began with bright optimism after a respectable Asia Cup showing in which they finished third, and followed it up with a thumping win over Sri Lanka in a warm-up game. A half-decent opening game against England was backed up by a trouncing of Afghanistan, which, given the latter’s recent form, looks a much more impressive showing now than it was then given credit for. But they have crumbled spectacularly since, never coming close to victory in any of their last five games, that limp defeat to the Dutch the nadir.
Pakistan are still drinking from that toxic concoction of hope and the threat of recriminations. Two wins to start off papered over some cracks, paper that India, Australia, Afghanistan and South Africa ripped apart to expose the barrenness of the structure they were building on. Injuries and a mystifying collective loss of form has meant this team is unrecognisable from the one that was ranked number one in this format just six weeks ago.
With Babar Azam under pressure for his captaincy and dysfunction at the cricket board back home, Pakistan will want little more than to put off stepping into the ring of fire they’ll step into when they return home. And against Bangladesh, they have the opportunity to put in a performance that will enable them to keep dreaming. At the moment, it seems to be all they have.
Bangladesh LLLLL (last five completed ODIs, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Shakib Al Hasan hasn’t had a World Cup campaign worth talking about but because of who he is, and what he has done in his 17-year career, he is always in the spotlight. Particularly in the last week after he hopped over to Dhaka for two batting sessions with his childhood mentor. While it may be unusual, Shakib has done this before, but it has come back to bite him after Bangladesh’s loss to the Netherlands. He has faced up to the media twice in three days, and said on Tuesday he was all about taking action. Now we have to wait for him to do just that.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Mohammad Rizwan‘s success with the bat aligns with his side’s. Over their first two games, in which their keeper converted starts into scores of 68 and 131*, Pakistan put four points on the board. But ever since, what has more generally been a Pakistani batting problem has also been a Rizwan problem. Rizwan, like much of Pakistan’s middle order, has got himself in and, before any real damage can be done, got himself out. It has often been down to poor shot selection in the last four games – each of which Pakistan have lost. Dismissals at 49, 46 and 31 against India, Australia and South Africa cost his side of momentum at key junctures. When Rizwan goes deep, Pakistan tend to do well, which will be lost on neither him nor the opposition.
Fakhar Zaman is fully fit, and given Imam-ul-Haq’s struggles could find himself presented another opportunity. Shadab Khan could not bowl against South Africa owing to concussion, and is not expected to be fit enough to play, giving Usama Mir another opportunity. Mohammad Nawaz’s troubles with the ball means a batting allrounder in Salman Ali Agha will replace him.
Pakistan: 1 Abdullah Shafique, 2 Imam-ul-Haq/Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 5 Saud Shakeel, 6 Iftikhar Ahmed, 7 Salman Ali Agha, 8 Usama Mir, 9 Mohammad Wasim/Hasan Ali, 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 11 Haris Rauf.
Bangladesh had a minor scare during training when Shakib walked off while batting with apparent neck pain. However he received treatment, got some strapping on, and came back to bat without much discomfort.
Bangladesh (possible): 1 Litton Das, 2 Tanzid Hasan, 3 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 4 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 5 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Mahedi Hasan, 9 Taskin Ahmed, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Shoriful Islam.
Pitch and conditions
The weather is expected to be bright and sunny, and on the warmer side. While there is no information about the pitch yet, it’s the same venue where a low-scoring game played out between Netherlands and Bangladesh on Saturday.
Stats and trivia
- Since Bangladesh obtained Test status, they have qualified past the first round of the ODI World Cup as many times as Pakistan – twice in five attempts.
- Until last week, Pakistan hadn’t lost to South Africa in the ODI World Cup since 1999. That was also the last time they lost to Bangladesh at an ODI World Cup.
- Three of Bangladesh’s four all-time top ODI runscorers – Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib al Hasan, and Mahmudullah – are part of the present squad.
Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000