© AFP
Mustafizur Rahman was replaced by Tamin Iqbal in the squad © AFP

Bangladesh’s hopes of qualifying for the final of Asia Cup 2016 faced a serious blow as their in-form pace bowler Mustafizur Rahman was ruled out of the Asia Cup after sustaining a side strain. Mustafizur missed out playing against Sri Lanka when his side successfully defended a score of 148 runs, thanks to decent bowling performances by Shakib al Hasan and Al-Amin Hossain. The left-arm medium pacer, known for his off-cutters and variations, will be sorely missed by Bangladesh when they face Pakistan in a clash that will be almost decide who will face India in the Asia Cup final. Full Cricket Scorecard: Bangladesh vs Pakistan, Asia Cup T20 2016, Match 8 at Mirpur

The young seamer will also be missed because of how the pitch conditions have turned out to be at the Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur, Dhaka. In the first six overs, the best bowlers have managed to move the ball around throughout the tournament. Taskin Ahmed, despite his talent and pace, has not been among wickets; Mashrafe Mortaza has stepped in at times to take wickets and contain the opposition and Al-Amin has struck at regular intevals, Mustafizur’s accuracy and wicket-taking ability will certainly be missed.

His contribution would have been invaluable for Bangladesh against Pakistan’s not-so-strong top-order that has struggled in the tournament so far. The Pakistan top three will be out there to prove a point. Mohammed Hafeez, Sharjeel Khan and Khurram Manzoor will be looking to spend some time at the crease and compensate for their poor shows with bat until now. ALSO READ: Pakistan vs Bangladesh, Asia Cup T20 2016, 8th match at Dhaka:Shakib Al Hasan vs Shahid Afridi and other key battles

Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal were splendid in taking their side to victory against UAE in their last match, showing resistance and putting all their experience to work. If they are not sent dismissed quickly enough, the Bangladeshi bowling unit may struggle to restrict the runs. Mustafizur might have been expensive against India in his team’s first match, leaking runs, but the way he came back in the match against UAE with 2 for 13 from 4 overs speaks for itself.

Bangladesh’s thumping of Pakistan in 2015 in the ODI series as well as the T20I are fresh in the minds of the visitors. Though Mustafizur did not play ODIs, he did play the T20I and took 2 for 20 from 4 overs. Coincidentally or not, the match was played at the same ground — Shere Bangla National Stadium. That day Mustafizur had got the better of Mohammed Hafeez, trapping him LBW to a terrific delivery when Hafeez had tried to sweep.

It was from there on that Mustafizur Rehman kicked-off his entry into the international arena. He quickly became a sensation after taking two consecutive five-wicket hauls in his first two ODIs, becoming only the second bowler in the world to do so.

His absence in the Bangladesh dugout will certainly hamper Bangladesh’s chances of getting to the final. However, his replacement Tamim Iqbal’s inclusion to increase the batting prowess for the hosts may, of course, be of some help.

(Karan Dewan is a reporter at CricketCountry)