There was no semi-final planned in the Asia Cup this year but in a strange quirk of fate we have one on Wednesday when Pakistan take on Bangladesh in a winner-takes-all final match of the Super Four stage of the tournament.
India are awaiting the winners of this one in the final and the equation is pretty simple. The winners here will progress to Friday’s championship match and the losers will be left to think of what might have been.
They have not been convincing in this tournament since their opening match but you have to give credit to Bangladesh for holding their nerve when their status in the event was on the line in their previous match. They looked like they were going to lose out to Afghanistan but Mustafizur did his thing and they live to fight another day.
The win was actually set up by a pretty good batting performance and if they can replicate that in this one they would certainly give themselves every chance of progressing through to the final. What they must do is ensure they manage their bowlers well enough to give the Fizz some help at the death but that should be possible.
Pakistan have ridden their luck in this tournament it is fair to say. They have been well beaten by India on the two occasions they met and thrashed Hong Kong prior to that but their status in the event came down to the narrowest of wins over Afghanistan. To be fair they held their nerve in that match but since the Hong Kong win you would have to say they have been unconvincing at best.
Their much vaunted bowling attack has not looked as potent as it usually would in this tournament and in recent times it has not been supported at all in the field. Catches have come and gone at an alarming rate in this Super Four stage and if they are going to progress here and go on to win the competition that is something that is going to need to change.
Steve Rhodes never used to change much after a win at Worcestershire and I’m expecting Bangladesh to follow their lead although it could be that Imrul Kayes moves up the order to provide some solidity to the top three.
Pakistan tried to get a wicket into Mohammad Amir last time out but they couldn’t manage it and as a result he is likely to miss out. Junaid Khan could be tried for the first time while Usman Khan will be looking for a spot in the side.
Given the magnitude of this match I expect us to get a close contest and with that in mind I believe the best bet is to take Bangladesh on the handicap. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they do win this but the handicap looks to be a much better option given the nerves and tension that could be on show in the tighter moments.
The line is 4.5 wickets and 25.5 runs and whichever way you look at it that feels a little big. This has not been a high scoring tournament so you would think Bangladesh can stay within 25 if they are chasing and there is enough in their attack on this wicket to pick up six wickets. Whoever wins this I think we could be set for another close finish on a pitch which has produced a few in this tournament already. I’ll take Bangladesh on the handicap.
Back Bangladesh (+4.5wickets/25.5runs) to beat Pakistan for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Bet365