The day has finally arrived. Ever since the Asia Cup 2018 schedule was announced, the cricketing world has eagerly awaited just one match: India vs Pakistan. After a long wait, the two teams lock horns in the final Group B match today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. India, who are playing two games back-to-back, are facing Pakistan only a day after they faced Hong Kong yesterday. To make things even better, today’s match might just be one of the three matches that these teams — if they are to make it all the way — will play in the span of the next 10 days of the Asia Cup 2018.
5th Match, Group A – 05.00PM Today @ Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai
The last time India faced Pakistan was in the ICC Champions Trophy final in June 2017 — a match India would like to forget as soon as possible. After beating Pakistan comfortably in the group stages, a upbeat Indian team was beaten quite comprehensively in the final. After posting 338 on the board, India were all out for just 158 as Pakistan won the match and that tournament.
But, when it comes to Asia Cup matches, India has a slight edge over its neighbours as they lead the head-to-head count. In the total 12 games played so far between the two sides, India has beaten Pakistan six times, while Pakistan has won five times, with one game abandoned due to rain. But after a gap of more than a year, the two sides are up against each other once more, this time to top group B in the Asia Cup.
India is without their star man Virat Kohli. The skipper is given some much-needed rest in between what is a very busy cricketing season. In place of Kohli, Rohit Sharma steps in as captain and will be leading the team against Pakistan. Playing two matches in two days is always a difficult task for any team, no matter who it goes up against. Expect India to completely change their squad from the lineup that faced Hong Kong yesterday.
Pakistan are pretty much set with their first team and the match against Hong Kong was a reminder of that. The team showed their superiority as they bowled out Hong Kong for just 116 runs before getting a two-day break. Pakistan’s players are well rested and look the much better side physically.
India have a big overnight decision to make. Jasprit Bumrah has to return for the Pakistan clash, but it would be cruel on Khaleel Ahmed, if it is at his expense. Shardul Thakur had an ordinary evening, and should make way. The next big call is in the top-order. The bench has Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul waiting to get in, but with Ambati Rayudu performing well and Kedar Jadhav doubling up as the sixth bowling option, only one player can be relegated to the bench – Dinesh Karthik. KL Rahul coming in would mean he either bats at 4 or takes No.3 and Rayudu moves a spot down. If Pandya is indeed a player they cannot do without – which is likely to be the case – then Khaleel will have to be benched.
Probable XI: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, KL Rahul/Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya/Khaleel Ahmed
Mohammad Amir has three wickets in eight ODIs in 2018 but Sarfraz Ahmed came to his strike pacer’s defence in a press conference, even going to the extent of citing the example of Mohammed Shami, who he felt bowled well in the Tests in England but didn’t have too many wickets to show for the effort. There’s logic in giving the left-armer a rest, considering they have enough similar fast bowlers to trouble the Indian batsmen and the fact that they’ve already made it to the Super Four stage.
Probable XI: Fakhar Zaman, Imam Ul Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Usman Khan, Mohammad Amir/Junaid Khan, Hasan Ali
Did you know?
– Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman has three hundreds and a half-century in his last five ODI outings
– If Yuzvendra Chahal picks two wickets against Pakistan, he’ll become India’s third fastest to 50 ODI wickets (in 27 matches) – behind Ajit Agarkar (23 matches) and Kuldeep Yadav (24 matches)
The India-Pakistan rivalry is old, and the subplots are always fascinating. The two teams are coming up against each other in the UAE – the neutral venue where they have played the most against each other – after a period of 12 long years. While India are still the same dangerous unit even without Virat Kohli, Pakistan’s young team have been improving with every game. But then again, it’s an India vs Pakistan match where all these intricate details don’t matter. A match which is played more emotionally than tactically, India vs Pakistan will definitely be a cracker of a match.
Ready For The Action Folks? Who is your Super 8?
Leagues up in the Lobby, Go get ’em champs!