In recent times, Bangladesh seem to be on a history-making spree. First, they entered the quarter-final of the World Cup first time by defeating England in the group stage. Then, they further extended their good run by beating Pakistan in back-to-back ODIs, and convincingly at that, to register their first ever series victory over their Asian rivals. While that in itself is a significant achievement, there could be more glory in store for Bangladesh. A win on Wednesday would give them a series whitewash triumph. The last time they achieved such a result against a top Test nation was when they beat New Zealand at home some years back. Bangladesh thus still have a lot to play for.
The most impressive aspect of Bangladesh's performance has been that they have excelled with both bat and ball first. Looking at their willow work first, opener Tamim Iqbal has led the way with superb tons in both the games, turning out to be the match-winner. There has never been any doubt over Iqbal's talent, but over the years he has disappointed more than he has delivered. This hasn't been the case in the series against Pakistan, where Iqbal has looked in prime form. The opener has been brilliantly supported by Mushfiqur Rahim, who got a hundred in the first game to help Bangladesh post an imposing total, and then got a half-century as the hosts chased down an average target.
Though not as standout, Bangladesh's bowlers have also done well. Left-arm spinner Ararat Sunny has been the most effective of them all. He has done the dual job of keeping things tight, and claiming wickets as well. The pacers have been slightly expensive, but over the course of the two games, Taskin Ahmed and Rubel Hossain have taken turns to impress. So good has been Bangladesh's performance that they haven't really needed their talisman Shakib Al Hasan or World Cup hero Mahmudullah to do much.
While Pakistan would be embarrassed by the loss, it is a fact that this is a team severely weakened by the retirement of Misbah-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi. They are particularly thin in the batting department, with inexperienced batsmen forming the nucleus of the side. Mohammad Hafeez is the only one representing the old guard, but he has registered failures in both the games. Lack of runs from Sarfraz Ahmed has only made matters worse. New skipper Azhar Ali has done well, making significant contributions with the bat in both the innings, but he has a bigger challenge as leader to bring the side together.
In spite of losses, Pakistan would be pleased that newcomers Mohammad Rizwan and Saad Nasim have played one pleasing knock each in the two games. They would be most disappointed with their bowling though for it is better in terms of experience as compared to their batting. Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali and Junaid Khan could all have done better. Riaz shone in the first game, but Ali and Khan have disappointed. More worrisome is the fact that Saeed Ajmal hasn't been the threat that he was prior to his remodelled bowling action. Clearly, plenty of headaches for Pakistan as they look to avoid a whitewash.
--By A Cricket Analyst