Just three days after the most-hyped contest of the Asia Cup turned out to be a one-sided affair, India and Pakistan face-off once again at the same venue in Dubai. But this time around the stakes are high: the previous encounter was a dead-rubber with both teams having secured the qualification to the next round. But in the Super Four, every win and loss counts.
Without a doubt, India look like the most settled side in the tournament. Since their tournament opener against Hong Kong, where the latter gave India a major scare, India’s combination has strengthened every game and despite the injuries to Hardik Pandya, Shardul Thakur and Axar Patel, they look unhinged. They are the only unbeaten side in the tournament and have hardly gotten any competition from any of the sides they have face so far – except for the Hong Kong scare. And it is unlikely that much will change on Sunday.
For Pakistan, the Champions Trophy triumph at The Oval last year looks a distant past now. The Wednesday’s drubbing at the hands of their arch-rivals served a reality check and their stuttering performance against Afghanistan must give Mickey Arthur and Sarfraz Ahmed a lot of pointers to work on.
But one thing that India will surely be cautious of is Pakistan’s ability to bounce back from situations where they have been written off. Something that happened in the 2017 Champions Trophy as well.
Pakistan will be coming into the game after a draining contest with Afghanistan. Their performance in the field was below-par, catches dropped and chances missed. And despite being 154-1, they lost six more wickets till the target – for which they need to be thankful to the veteran Shoaib Malik. Despite the win, if Pakistan go in with almost the same clueless strategy, there won’t be any contest there.
And perhaps the biggest talking point will be Pakistan line-up. Will Mohammad Amir make a comeback? Will Pakistan play both Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz? Where will Haris Sohail slot in?
They have played enough games and seen the results of other teams to realise the importance of spinners. Therefore, barring Shadab fails a fitness test, the duo of Nawaz and Shadab is likely to take the field, with the latter expected to replace Haris Sohail. On the pacers side, Pakistan are likely to persist with Shaheen Afridi, but might just bring back Amir in place of Usman Shinwari.
On the other hand, India are likely to persist with the winning combination they chose against Bangladesh.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the chief dismantler of Pakistan side with the figures of 3-15, including the scalps of Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman. India will be hoping that he – along with his new ball partner Jasprit Bumrah – strike the early chord to set the tone for the game, just as they did on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Babar Azam was the only batsman other than Shoaib Malik who looked to trouble the Indian bowling. And it took a special delivery from Kuldeep Yadav to get rid of him. And he was also in the runs against Afghanistan in the 154-run partnership with Imam.
Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma (capt), Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Kedhar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah
Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Asif Ali, Shadab Khan/Haris Sohail, Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan/Mohammad Amir