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Tri-series gets underway today

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LYNCHPIN: Umar Gul is expected to provide the Pakistan bowling attack the cutting edge.
LYNCHPIN: Umar Gul is expected to provide the Pakistan bowling attack the cutting edge.

S. Dinakar

Pakistan takes on host Bangladesh in the opener

Dhaka: It was only in March this year Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men achieved one of India’s greatest ODI triumphs. India won a gruelling triangular series down under, also featuring Australia and Sri Lanka.

Now, many talk about the death of the ODI. Twenty20’s sweep and popularity have shortened public memories. It’s fast and fun-filled. And it’s not predictable.

The ODI faces a challenge but should survive the phase. After all, among the abbreviated versions of the game, it’s a more complete test of skills. Here, the bowlers have a greater say.

Under the circumstances, the Kitply tri-series, the first ODI competition after the IPL, will be followed with keen interest.

India, Pakistan and host Bangladesh will duel it out in a short four-match (three league games and the final) tournament.

The series begins with a day-night clash between Pakistan and Bangladesh at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur on Sunday.

There have been spells of rain in these parts, but every game has a reserve day. The drainage facilities at the venue are considered adequate as well.

Pakistan will eye a tournament triumph. It has a chance to jump to the third spot in the ICC ODI rankings.

These, however, have not been easy times for the side. The predicament, key paceman Mohammed Asif finds himself in, has not exactly helped the team’s morale.

Malik confident

Skipper Shoaib Malik, however, has put up a brave front. He is confident that Pakistan will extend its 11-match unbeaten streak in the ODIs here.

Pakistan defeated India in the last match of a five-match series in India last year and then blanked Zimbabwe and Bangladesh 5-0 at home.

India threatens Pakistan’s run here. The pitches in Mirpur are expected to be slow turners that would assist Bangladesh’s brand of cricket. Pakistan, though, would not be too unhappy with the nature of the pitches.

Fair mix

It has a fair mix of the big hitters in Malik, Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq. Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan and Salman Butt are both experienced and crafty. And someone like Kamran Akmal is expected to pierce the infield during the Power Play overs.

Pakistan will rely on pacemen Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir to provide the attack with a cutting edge. Their full length and swing make them dangerous on any surface. It is a right-left bowling combination that could sting.

Bangladesh has gone off the boil somewhat after its heady days in the World Cup. It still possesses some exciting shot-makers in skipper Mohammad Ashraful, Shahriar Nafees and Tamim Iqbal. Greater consistency is the need.

The pacemen Mashrafe Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain will strive to provide early breakthroughs while left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak could peg back the opposition in the crucial middle overs.

Mortaza is also a powerful striker of the ball. Wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim is someone with confidence.

Skipper Ashraful said, “We have the firepower. On a given day, we can beat anyone.”

The teams: Pakistan (from): S. Malik (captain), Misbah-ul-Haq, K. Akmal, S. Butt, M. Yousuf, Younis Khan, Naumanullah, Shahid Afridi, S. Tanvir, Umar Gul, I. Anjum, N. Jamshed, B. Khan, F. Alam, S. Khan, W. Riaz.

Bangladesh (from): M. Ashraful (captain), S. Nafees, T. Iqbal, M. Rahim, D. Mahmud, A. Kapali, M. Mortaza, A. Razzaq, S. Hossain, R. Hassan, F. Reza and Mahmudullah.

Umpires: Asoka de Silva and E. Haq: Match Referee: Jeff Crowe.

THE SCHEDULE

June 8: Bangladesh vs. Pakistan; June 10: India vs. Pakistan; June 12: Bangladesh vs. India; June 14: Final

(All matches start at 2.30 p.m. IST)

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