Pakistan v Bangladesh: Sarfraz eyes odds-defying qualification
Pakistan head into Friday's final Cricket World Cup group game against Bangladesh knowing the odds are stacked firmly against their semi-final qualification hopes.
Reaching the knockout stages remains a mathematical possibility for Sarfraz Ahmed's side following fourth-placed New Zealand's loss to hosts England on Wednesday.
Yet, in reality, an improbable result of freak proportions will be required if the fifth-placed side are to overhaul a Black Caps team two points clear of them and with a superior net run rate.
If they are to stand any chance of extending their stay in England at all, they must bat first.
Should the toss go their way, they will then be required to record a victory of well in excess of 300 runs - 311 runs after posting 350 or by 316 runs after scoring 400 - in order to better New Zealand's net run-rate, which stands at +0.175 as opposed to Pakistan's score of -0.792.
Do not expect Bangladesh to be pushovers, however. They have proven tricky opponents throughout the tournament and in star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan possess one of the top performers of this World Cup.
Shakib has already claimed a place in the record books by becoming the first all-rounder in tournament history to score 500 runs and claim 10 wickets - and he is unlikely to be finished yet.
TOURNAMENT SO FAR
With four wins from their opening eight matches - including the scalps of England and New Zealand - there are plenty of positives for Pakistan to take from this World Cup. Consistency has evaded them, however, and there is an air of resignation to their fate.
It is a tournament which has delivered some memorable moments for Bangladesh too. That opening-match triumph over South Africa has set the tone for a series of spirited - and, on three occasions, winning - performances with the superb Shakib right at the very heart of it.
WHAT THEY SAID
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed: "Definitely, we're interested in finishing on a high note. So we will try our best. It is very difficult - 316 runs is a big margin. Only if you're batting first, if you score 600 runs or 500 runs. I don't know what the study is behind [how positions are decided in future World Cups] but I can't do anything."
Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes: "There's no such thing as a dead rubber. Both teams desperate to beat each other. We certainly are. I'm pretty sure they are. They've got a lot to play for as well. So, we're looking to obviously win. We want to win. So if we can take the scalp of Pakistan in the World Cup, we'll be very, very proud of the boys."
- Bangladesh have won their last four men's ODIs against Pakistan. Prior to this, Pakistan had recorded 31 wins from 32 clashes against the Tigers, including 25 in a row.
- Pakistan have won their last three Cricket World Cup 2019 matches; after becoming champions in 1992 they have only managed more consecutive victories at a single edition twice (four in both 1999 and 2015).
- Shakib Al Hasan has scored 542 runs so far, the most by a Bangladeshi at a single edition; in the process he has recorded six scores of 50+, only Sachin Tendulkar has recorded more in an edition of the tournament (seven in 2003).
- This will be the second meeting between Pakistan and Bangladesh at a World Cup, the first match took place when the tournament was last held in England (1999, Bangladesh won by 62 runs).