First Test preview: Bangladesh vs Pakistan

If the limited-overs results on Pakistan's tour of Bangladesh are anything to go by, an uphill task and difficult test of mental strength awaits the home side as they go into the Test series.

If the limited-overs results on Pakistan's tour of Bangladesh are anything to go by, an uphill task and difficult test of mental strength awaits the home side as they go into the Test series. Especially as the last time they played in the Test arena, they were humbled by the West Indies in their backyard.

Pakistan are unbeaten on a tour which has included three ODIs as well a lone T20I. On all four occasions, Bangladesh showed very little resistance in the batting department, which gave little indication that they are even remotely prepared to play the five-day game.

In August this year the Bangladesh Test side was handed a crushing 130-run defeat at the hands of a Zimbabwean side which had not played Test match cricket for six years. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Tigers, who failed to reach 300 in either innings. They followed that up with a 1-0 defeat to the Windies over a two-Test series and it was only the rain that saved them from a clean sweep as two days of play were lost in the first Test.

They've since looked to rebuild by making four changes to the squad, with former captain and perennial yo-yo man Mohammad Ashraful making a return to the squad for the umpteenth time. Vice-captain Mohammad Mahmudullah makes a welcome return after missing the Windies series because of dengue fever. Robiul Islam and Mohammad Nazimuddin are also back in the side, with Raqubul Hasan, Shuvagato Hom and Imrul Kayes all making way.

With Bangladesh traditionally delivering flat, slow, turning tracks, taking wickets shouldn't be too much of an ask for Stuart Law's men, with the likes of Shakib Al Hasan and Nasir Hossain likely to turn their arms over, but batting is where they will come unstuck against a resurgent Pakistan side who appear to have now firmly distanced themselves from any off-field controversies.

The visitors defeated Sri Lanka 1-0 over three Tests in Dubai, but enjoyed a lot more dominance over their opponents than the scoreline suggests.

The injured Junaid Khan is missing, along with Wahab Riaz, who was dropped, but they've been replaced by Mohammad Talha and Mohammad Ilyas, who have been brought in after showing superb domestic form.

Pakistan could well miss the left-arm pace of Khan as he was very threatening against Sri Lanka, picking up 12 wickets in the three Tests. Talha might just get the nod over Ilyas as he was originally called up before the injury to Khan. Spinners are, however, going to be bowling the bulk of the overs and with Saeed Ajmal in the form of his life, they will should no trouble in taking 20 wickets against a brittle Bangladesh batting line-up on almost any track.

The batting department is also in good condition and certainly not struggling for runs as Taufeeq Umar, Azhar Ali and Younis Khan all averaged over 55 for the series against Sri Lanka and all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez also managed to chip in appropriately at the top of the order.

Captain Misbah-ul-Haq will need to have a stern word with his players before the match as they will have the added pressure of wanting to impress their new coach, who has been chosen, but yet to be announced. Therefore, the need for strong individual performances could threaten to derail the team focus as players may just target records and try to make a lasting impression against perceived weaker opposition.

<b>Key Men</b><br><i>Bangladesh:</i> He is regularly the only player able to deliver consistent performances and former captain <b>Shakib Al Hasan</b> will be targeting his 100th Test wicket. Over a 24-match career, the left-armer has 89 pegs to his name and while he didn't set the world alight in the ODI series still has the potential to confuse many top-order batsmen and become the second Bangladesh bowler, after Mohammad Rafique, to take 100 Test wickets.

<i>Pakistan:</i> After playing the third ODI in Chittagong, it was clearly evident that spin is favoured on that track. <b>Saeed Ajmal</b> took 18 wickets against Sri Lanka and now, facing Bangladesh, he will be the leading threat for Pakistan.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><BR>September 2003, Third Test: Pakistan won by one wicket in Multan<br>August 2003, Second Test: Pakistan won by nine wickets in Peshawar<br>August 2003, First Test: Pakistan won by seven wickets in Karachi<br>January 2002, Second Test: Pakistan won by an innings and 169 runs in Chittagong<br>January 2002, First Test: Pakistan won by an innings and 178 runs in Dhaka

<b>Prediction</b><BR>A three-nil whitewash in the ODI series coupled with a crushing victory in the Twenty20 International makes <b>Pakistan</b> firm favourites going into the Test series. Add to that a 1-0 series victory over Sri Lanka the last time they played the longer format of the game and one cannot see a Bangladesh victory coming from any direction.

Online betting firm <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>Sky Bet</B></a> has Bangladesh at 10/1 in the <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>betting</B></a> for victory in the first Test. Visit Sky Bet for the latest cricket betting.

<b>Probable Teams</b><br><i>Bangladesh:</i> Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Nazimuddin, Shahriar Nafees, Mohammad Ashraful, Mohammad Mahmudullah, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim (captain and wicketkeeper), Naeem Islam, Rubel Hossain, Nasir Hossain, Robiul Islam.

<i>Pakistan:</i> Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal (wicketkeeper), Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Talha.

<b>Dates:</b> 9-13 December <br><b>Morning session:</b> 9:30-11:30 (03:30-05:30 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 12:10-14:10 (06:10-08:10 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 14:30-16:30 (08:30-10:30 GMT)

<b>On-field umpires:</b> Billy Doctrove and Shahvir Tarapore<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Local appointment<br><b>Match referee:</b> Javagal Srinath

<B>Justin Lawrence</B>