The deadlock over bilateral series between India and Pakistan continues but the arch-rivals could play three One Day Internationals in the United Arab Emirates in September this year. With the Asia Cup 2018 shifted from India to UAE, one match between the neighboring countries is confirmed, two are highly likely and three will be a possibility if both reach the final of the tournament to be played from September 18 to 30 in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Cricingif has learnt that the Asia Cup 2018 will be played according to the format used in the 2008 edition in Pakistan. The six teams – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Qualifier – have been divided into two groups with India, Pakistan and Qualifier forming Group A and the remaining three teams penciled in Group B.
The first match between India and Pakistan in the group stage will be played on September 19 and the second – provided the Qualifier does not throw an upset – in the Super 4 Round on September 27. Even though the arch-rivals have never met in the final of the Asia Cup before, with both teams in a better form than the other participants there is a good possibility of both making it to the final of the tournament for the first time.
The qualifying stage, comprising of Hong Kong, Malaysia, Nepal, Oman, Singapore and UAE, will start from September 13 whereas the tournament proper will commence from September 18 with Pakistan vs Qualifier in Dubai Sports City and Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Stadium. There will be one more double-header on September 21 – India vs Pakistan and Afghanistan vs Bangladesh.
The top two teams from each group will qualify for the Super 4 Round in which every team will play against the other three teams. The main tournament will see 13 games in 13 days across two venues. It remains to be seen if the tournament will have bonus points, a playing condition that was exercised in some of the previous editions.
Couple of decades ago, India vs Pakistan was a regular fixture in the Emirates with Sharjah playing host to many historic games. But the Asian giants have not squared off in UAE in twelve years since the two-match ODI series in Abu Dhabi in 2006 that was drawn 1-1. The Asia Cup 2018 will see the arch-rivals facing off for the very first time in Dubai. Both teams have won 5 games apiece in the Asia Cups, excluding the previous edition in 2016 which was a T20 affair. In that tournament India got the better of Pakistan in Mirpur before beating Bangladesh in the final.
In another development regarding Pakistan’s upcoming tours, Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) confirmed on Tuesday that it will host a T20I tri-series involving Pakistan and Australia, the top two teams in the ICC T20 Rankings, in July this year. The tournament will be followed by five one-day internationals between Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
ZC have canceled the two Tests with Pakistan that were part of the FTP. The upshot is that by October this year Pakistan will have 10 Test matches scrapped from the current FTP. Pakistan agreed to cancel a Test each against Windies and Sri Lanka at the expense of more limited-over internationals last year whereas five matches with Bangladesh and India could not materialize due to political tensions. With two Tests canceled with Zimbabwe and one with Australia later this year, the overall tally of Pakistan’s scrapped Tests will reach 10 in the space of 16 months.
Pakistan will host Australia for two Tests in UAE in October this year. The series initially had three Tests and was to be played in March 2019. But the March window will now be used for the fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League and 5 ODIs with Australia to prepare for the Cricket World Cup 2019.
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