INDvsPAK: Even without their talismanic captain Virat Kohli, the Indian batting looked formidable and lived up to the billing.
The Asia Cup is a six-team tournament, with three different stages. The format ensures India and Pakistan face each other at least twice, with an additional possibility of a face-off in the final.
Considering the fact that the two teams cannot be involved in a bilateral series due to simmering political tension, nobody — barring a bunch of Bangladesh and Pakistani cricketers — seems to be complaining about the format or the scheduling.
In fact, fans in the UAE — who last saw the Men in Blue in action way back in 2006 – will be thronging the Dubai International Cricket Stadium again on Sunday in what would be the second encounter in four days between the arch-rivals.
While an inconsequential Group A game — with both teams having qualified for the Super Fours even before the match began – turned out to be a lop-sided affair in favour of India, fans will be hoping for a keener tussle from the Green group.
After all, the stakes are much higher for Sunday’s clash since the prospects of a possible third match of the mini-series (read the final) will depend a lot on the outcome of the match.
With both teams starting Super Fours with contrasting wins on Friday, a win on Sunday will virtually ensure an entry into the final. If India continues its dominating streak from the last two matches, it will seal a place in the title clash since its Net Run Rate has leapfrogged after having defeated Bangladesh with almost 14 overs to spare.
Pakistan, on the other hand, survived a scare against Afghanistan, overhauling a challenging target of 258 with just three balls to spare. Sarfraz Ahmed will hope his boys will build on the confidence of having pocketed two points and put up a strong show.
India, meanwhile, doesn’t have too much to ponder going into the match. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have been striking regularly at the start and the death; Ravindra Jadeja’s addition to the team ahead of the Super Fours has made the spin departments stronger with wrist-spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav playing second fiddle.
As for batting, captain Rohit Sharma and deputy Shikhar Dhawan have so far ensured that the team doesn’t miss Virat Kohli, who has skipped the tournament to be fitter and stronger, mentally and physically, ahead of a hectic season that will culminate with next year’s World Cup. Ambati Rayudu has staked a claim for the vacant middle-order slot for the World Cup with consistent perormances.
The only area of concern, if at all, is the lack of batting time for the lower middle order so far in the tournament. With the top order delivering drastically and the middle-order playing the support role after the early hiccup against Hong Kong in the opener, the lower middle order hasn’t really got a good look in.
But as Kedar Jadhav joked about it after the last game against Pakistan that once Rohit is in his element, the lower order is sure it won’t get to bat. If the lower middle-order continues to wait in the change room, it would mean India could well register yet another one-sided victory and book a place in the final.
The teams (from):
India: Rohit Sharma (Capt.), Shikhar Dhawan , K.L. Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (w.k.), Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Siddharth Kaul, and Deepak Chahar.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (Capt. & w.k.), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Haris Sohail, Shadab Khan, Muhammad Nawaz, Fahim Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, Usman Shinwari, Shaheen Afridi.