India v Pakistan – marquee clash to identify group-toppers
DUBAI (92 News) – After winning their opening games against Hong Kong, India and Pakistan will take on each other in the most anticipated fixture of the Asia Cup 2018.
Pakistan kept it straight and simple against Hong Kong, strolling to an eight-wicket win after bowling the opposition out for 116. India, on the other hand, had to battle hard against the same opponents before pulling off a 26-run victory. Passage to the Super Four secured, the two teams now face off at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium for points, bragging rights, and more in a rare fixture.
With games on back-to-back days, India didn’t play Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah and KL Rahul in the Hong Kong game, and will be tempted to draft them in against Pakistan. Who goes out, though, will be a tricky call to make, as Ambati Rayudu scored 60 in 70 balls from No.3, Dinesh Karthik hit 33 in 38, and Khaleel Ahmed, the debutant, was the best of the bowlers, returning 3/48. Shardul Thakur, perhaps, might have to make way after poor returns of none for 41 from four overs.
Pakistan, meanwhile, seem to have all their bases covered. Their bowling attack looks outstanding with the likes of Usman Shinwari, who returned a three-wicket haul against Hong Kong, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf the fast men, and Shadab Khan handling the spin department. Their top order looks well-settled with the combination of exuberance and experience in Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik.
The last time these two sides met was in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in England, where Pakistan stunned India by 180 runs. Zaman, who scored a century for Pakistan then, led the batting effort, and Amir then broke the spine of the Indian batting with a fiery spell early on. They are both very much in the mix, while India might well miss the services of Virat Kohli, at least for this game.
From the Indian point of view, with his 120-ball 126 against Hong Kong, Shikhar Dhawan looks in fine form at the top of the batting order. The wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, proven match-winners in the shorter formats of the game, will be vital to India’s chances, while Rayudu, Karthik and Kedar Jadhav, if they play the game, will back themselves to score important runs.
Shikhar Dhawan (India): The left-hander has begun the Asia Cup with a century and has a reputation of coming good in multi-nation tournaments. With Sharma’s tentative dismissals against the likes of Amir in the last few years, Dhawan will be vital to neutralising Pakistan’s pace battery up front.
Shoaib Malik (Pakistan): As opposed to his career average of 35.12 in one-day international cricket, Malik’s performance rises significantly against India, with a batting average of 47.45, including four centuries. He will be the anchor of Pakistan’s middle order and his calm will be crucial against the likes of Chahal and Yadav.
The weather is expected to be hot and dry as usual through the day, with temperatures expected to be at around 37°C at the start of the match. The dry and slow pitch in Dubai will bring the spinners from both the sides into play.
India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Khaleel Ahmed, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Shardul Thakur
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Fakhar Zaman, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Amir, Shadab Khan, Imam ul Haq, Shan Masood, Babar Azam, Asif Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Nawaz, Fahim Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Usman Shinwari, Shaheen Afridi