DHAKA - Pakistan are gearing up to take a step forward towards semi-final qualification as they aim to get past an out-of-sync Bangladesh Sunday. A victory against Bangladesh will officially end Australia's theoretical chance of qualifying for the last four as George Bailey's men can win only two matches from here on. The victory will also make the West Indies versus Pakistan clash on April 1 a virtual quarter-final, which will decide the second team from the group after India.
M Hafeez's men, who lost their opening group two match to India by seven wickets on March 21, bounced back to beat Australia by 16 runs last Sunday and remain in contention. Pakistan must defeat hosts Bangladesh and the defending champions West Indies on Tuesday to join India in the semi-finals from the group.
"The picture is clear," Hafeez said on Saturday. "We have to win both games to make sure we are in the last four. There is no scope to make mistakes now and we are eager to get back to the field." Hafeez said the team used the break to iron out shortcomings ahead of the crucial matches at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium.
"We have trained and worked hard for the last six days," he said. "The management and the coaches worked on our weaknesses. The build-up for the crucial stage has gone off very well." Hafeez praised arch-rivals India, who won three consecutive games to ensure their place in the knock-out round even before their last league match against Australia on Sunday. "India have played very good cricket so far in the tournament," the Pakistan skipper said. "It's good they are through, so the rest of the teams know what it will take to advance. Expectations should always remain high. Our target is not just the semi-finals, but also to win the tournament. I think we are destined to do well." Pakistan, champions in 2009, have an impressive record in World Twenty20, making the semi-finals of all four editions so far. Pakistan's batting, which faltered against India to be restricted to 130-7, came back strongly against Australia where they piled up 191-5 following Umar Akmal's scintillating 94 off 54 balls. Hafeez said Akmal, who strained a hamstring during that innings, was fit to play on Sunday. "The break came as a blessing in disguise," Hafeez said. "It gave time to the physios to work on him. He has been training for the last two days."
Hafeez knows the tougher game will be against the West Indies on Tuesday, but refused to take Bangladesh lightly even though the hosts have lost both matches so far. "No team is easy to beat in T20 cricket," he said. "You have to do the basics right every time. We respect Bangladesh and will do our best to win."
For Bangladesh, they are hoping against hope that they are able to pull a coup of sorts by upsetting the Pakistan applecart. Their premier all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, in fact, made it clear that they are not even hoping for a semi-final berth at the moment. "After losing the last two games, the morale is obviously down but the beauty of T20 cricket is that you can always come back in the next game. There's no team that can say it will win. It's so short, if you make a mistake, it's hard to come back. Mathematically, may be, we can qualify for semi-final, but it is very hard for us to win two games and qualify," Shakib said.The only advantage Shakib feels is the lack of expectations that will enable them to play with free minds. "The pressure will be less and that is the biggest thing. Hopefully, that will give us confidence to perform and may be cause an upset. The crowd knows that we can perform. As far as my form is concerned, I did not perform with the bat in two games but you don't know in T20, when things change."
Pakistan vs bangladesh
MATCH STARTS AT 2:30 PM
Kamran Akmal (wk), Ahmed Shehzad, M Hafeez (capt), Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Sohaib Maqsood, Shahid Afridi, Bilawal Bhatti, Umar Gul, Saaed Ajmal, Zulfiqar Babar, Junaid Khan, M Talha, Sohail Tanvir, Sharjeel Khan.
Tamim Iqbal, Anamul Haque, Shakib Al Hasan, M Rahim (capt, wk), Sabbir Rahman, Nasir Hossain, Mahmudullah, Mashrafe Mortaza, Ziaur Rahman, Sohag Gazi, Al-Amin Hossain, Abdur Razzak, Mominul Haque, Farhad Reza, Shamsur Rahman.