India, Pak set for another showdown today

Spectators during a cricket match between arch-rivals India and Pakistan [Representational Image]
Spectators during a cricket match between arch-rivals India and Pakistan [Representational Image]File: ANI

Dubai: There was a lot of expectation leading up to the Asia Cup 2022 match between India and Pakistan in Dubai exactly one week ago. Moreover, it was one of the few times an India-Pakistan match’s pre-match anticipation and on-field performance coincided.

The Group A match was an absorbing affair between the two teams, which went into the final over before Hardik Pandya, after his spell of 3/25, took India home in a tense chase of 148 with a six over long-on. Many fans had manifested another India-Pakistan meeting to happen in the Super Four stage, and the cricketing gods made it come true.

Saturday will see Afghanistan play against Sri Lanka in first Super Four match at Sharjah. But there is another India-Pakistan showdown at Dubai on Sunday which the fans from both countries and around the world will be keenly keeping an eye on.

Amidst the scorching heat in the UAE, the atmosphere in the Dubai International Stadium will go a couple of notches high when the greatest rivalry in the world of cricket resumes yet again on Sunday.

From an Indian perspective, they will be pleased to see how Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Suryakumar Yadav, along with a returning Virat Kohli, have stepped up to lead the side to victory in matches against Pakistan and Hong Kong. But there are still some areas of concern for India ahead of Sunday’s big game against Pakistan.

KL Rahul has been completely out of sorts since his return after a lengthy injury layoff. He got out for a first-ball duck against Pakistan and in the match against Hong Kong, he was struggling to time the ball, resulting in a painstaking 36 off 39 balls. India would also want for captain Rohit Sharma to get a big score after indifferent outings in two matches, which deviated from the side’s ultra-attacking batting approach.

In the bowling attack, there will be question marks over Avesh Khan’s inconsistency. Against Pakistan, he had figures of 1/19 in his two overs. But against Hong Kong, he was erratic while conceding 53 runs in his four overs.

Moreover, with no Ravindra Jadeja for the remainder of the tournament, whose promotion to number four against Pakistan worked well, India has a select query to address. They need to see whether they will still retain Rishabh Pant in the playing eleven for his left-handedness or get either of Deepak Hooda or Axar Patel, a like-for-like replacement of Jadeja, in the playing eleven.

Pakistan, on the other side, cruised into the Super Four stage with a 155-run thrashing of Hong Kong. Their pacers and spinners got wickets while Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman got fifties before Khushdil Shah applied to finish touches. But their concerns still remain about the top-order.

There’s no doubt about Rizwan, Zaman and captain Babar Azam achieving a major chunk of success while chasing. But batting first is not their strongest suit, especially when the top three use a lot of deliveries, which leaves little time for someone like a Khushdil, Iftikhar Ahmed and Asif Ali to apply the finishing touches.

Asia Cup 2022 is now at a stage where no team is lightweight or can be underestimated. One loss and chances of getting into the finale on September 11 will be in trouble. India and Pakistan are well aware that even one false move in Super Four can jeopardise their well-laid plans for the finale.

As the tournament moves into the last four phase, excitement levels will be at a high when India and Pakistan take the field on Sunday. One would hope that this time as well, the hype matches the on-field action, once again, like it happened seven days ago.

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