MIRPUR (Agencies) – The first one-day international (ODI) between Pakistan and Bangladesh will be played today (Friday) in Mirpur, Bangladesh. The match will start at 1:30pm Pakistan standard time.
With Misbah and Afridi having retired from ODIs after the World Cup, the Pakistan Cricket Board named Azhar Ali as captain of the ODI side. Azhar Ali is set to lead a new-look team that includes just five players who featured in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
A big challenge for Azhar on his first tour as captain will be the number of injuries in the squad. Sohaib Maqsood and Sohail Khan, who were part of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 squad, were ruled out prior to the tour and the team suffered another setback on Thursday when Yasir Shah, the leg-spinner, was ruled out with a hand injury. Zulfiqar Babar, the 36-year-old left-arm spinner, was named his replacement.
The side, though, will be boosted by the return of two senior players – Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal. Hafeez returns to action after missing the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 due to a leg injury, while Ajmal is set to return to international cricket with a remodelled action after being suspended from bowling in international cricket in September 2014.
Ajmal, who has 178 Test, 183 ODI and 85 Twenty20 International wickets, was cleared to bowl again in February, but ruled himself out of the World Cup in which Pakistan lost to eventual champions Australia in the quarter-final.
The pace department will also welcome back Junaid Khan, who missed the World Cup with a hamstring injury. Junaid will lead the pace attack along with Wahab Riaz, while Ehsan Adil and Rahat Ali will play the supporting role.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, will be quietly confident and is looking at this series as its best chance of improving its record against Pakistan. The two sides have met each other in 47 matches across all formats and Bangladesh has won just once, with the lone victory coming in the 1999 World Cup in England.
Bangladesh had an impressive outing in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 and entered the quarter-final for the first time, before bowing out with a loss to India. Shakib Al Hasan will lead the side in the first ODI in the absence of Mashrafe Mortaza, who has been suspended for one match due to slow over-rates during the World Cup.
The batting looks stable with Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim in fine form. Mahmudullah scored back-to-back centuries in the World Cup to become the only Bangladesh batsman to score a ton in the tournament s history, while Rahim and Shakib made good contributions too. Soumya Sarkar and Sabbir Rahman also showed promise – Sabbir also getting a match-winning century in a warm-up game against the Pakistan side – but Bangladesh will hope for more runs from Tamim Iqbal, the experienced opener. Rony Talukdar, the 24-year-old batsman, has been handed a national call-up.
Rubel Hossain and Taskin Ahmed form the pace attack while Nasir Hossain, Shakib, Mahmudullah and Rahman give Bangladesh a number of spinning options.
The three-match ODI series will be followed by a T20I on April 24, before the two-Test series begins on April 28.