Khulna, Bangladesh (BBN)-An 8-0 streak, stretching back 14 years, for Pakistan over Bangladesh in Test cricket is now under legitimate threat after the hosts won the ODI series 3-0 and the lone T20 in Mirpur.
However, with the change to whites comes the addition of captain Misbah-ul-Haq and the veteran Younis Khan to a batting line-up that will also have the in-form Azhar Ali at No 3.
The onus will be on Misbah to change the mood within the team.
His exit from the ODI side has coincided with immediate losses for Pakistan, so a lot will be expected of him.
Younis had a forgettable World Cup campaign, but it is not quite so easy to forget his five Test centuries in 2014.
Pakistan have a few other players whose experience worked last year but lately have run into poor form.
Mohammad Hafeez, who has made 34 runs in four innings on tour, will be important at the top.
Asad Shafiq, who has been limited to the nets and the bench so far, and Sarfraz Ahmed, who was “rested” in an ODI, are likely to shore up the middle-order batting at Nos. 6 and 7.
The seam attack will be led by Wahab Riaz, with only Junaid Khan for company, and both have been off colour in Bangladesh.
Saeed Ajmal too hasn’t had a good return to international cricket. So Pakistan could prefer a second spinner who can contain like Zulfiqar Babar rather than Yasir Shah, who missed the ODIs with injury but has since been bowling in the nets.
The Khulna pitch turns from any point after the third day, so Ajmal will be more influential as the match progresses.
Similarly, Bangladesh will expect Shakib Al Hasan to find his rhythm in the longer format, with Jubair Hossain and Taijul Islam for assistance.
Their major concern will be the pace attack, which looks thin on threat and experience.
Rubel Hossain and Shahadat Hossain have been around for a number of years, but have never come of age in Test cricket.
Bangladesh’s batting resources are a bit more exciting.
Most of the top and middle-order are in form and greater solidity can be found if Soumya Sarkar is used well.
Much, however, will depend on Tamim Iqbal at the top and Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib in the middle.
(Last five matches, most recent first)
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Mominul Haque has a 60-plus batting average after 12 Tests but he will face a fresh challenge after losing his place in the ODI side.
His role at No. 3 will be vital, so will be the way he handles the Pakistan attack in early and late spells.
Sami Aslam made an impressive ODI debut and is likely to get his first Test cap in Khulna.
A compact left-hander, Aslam has a first-class average of 37.65 with five centuries.
Bangladesh are set to hand Soumya Sarkar a Test debut at No. 7.
Imrul Kayes will open with Tamim Iqbal. And among the seamers, Shahadat Hossain might be picked ahead of Mohammad Shahid.
BANGLADESH (PROBABLE): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Mominul Haque, 4 Mahmudullah, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Soumya Sarkar 8 Taijul Islam, 9 Jubair Hossain, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Shahadat Hossain
Sami Aslam is likely to pip Babar Azam for the opening position, while Haris Sohail would have to wait his chance now that Younis Khan and captain Misbah-ul-Haq are back.
Pakistan are also expected to pick two pace bowlers, which leaves no place for Imran Khan. Zulfiqar Babar could play ahead of Yasir Shah.
PAKISTAN (PROBABLE): 1 Sami Aslam, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Sarfaraz Ahmed, 8 Wahab Riaz, 9 Junaid Khan, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Zulfiqar Babar
PITCH AND CONDITIONS
Spin has been king at the Sheikh Abu Nasir Stadium, unless someone with high pace creates enough chances. Batting will get progressively harder.
There are chances of rain in the forecast for the first four days as well.
STATS AND TRIVIA
In the last Test held in Khulna, Shakib Al Hasan became the first spinner to take to score a hundred and taken 10 wickets in the same Test.
Among the current players, Younis Khan and Mohammad Hafeez (418 in five matches) have the most runs in the Bangladesh-Pakistan contest while Saeed Ajmal has taken the most wickets (9 in two matches).