India will hope their middle-order gets some playing time when they take on a resolute Afghanistan in the final 'Super Four' encounter of the Asia Cup on Tuesday. India have been emphatic after an unimpressive start against Hong Kong, with a couple of one-sided victories over arch-rivals Pakistan and an equally simplistic one against Bangladesh. With a spot in Friday's final sealed, skipper Rohit Sharma may want some of his untested middle-order batsmen to get quality time in the middle against someone of Rashid Khan's calibre.
Shikhar Dhawan (327) and skipper Rohit (269) have done the bulk of the scoring in the four matches so far with very little contribution being required from the other batsmen in the line-up. The next highest scorer is Ambati Rayudu (116 runs) because he comes in at No 3.
The problem has been lack of batting time for the likes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik so far. Rohit had given Dhoni an opportunity to come in at No 4 against Bangladesh and the former captain scored 33 runs. But it was a pressure-free situation. Dhoni's Achilles heel of late has been to keep the scoreboard ticking in pressure situations that the middle-overs throw up. If the likes of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman can put pressure, it will be a good warm-up for the middle-order trio before the final match.
The Indian bowlers have been splendid on the slow Dubai International Stadium track with all the bowlers enjoying an economy rate of less than five runs per over. The spinners have been on a roll with Yuzvendra Chahal (5 wickets at 4.61 runs per over) and Kuldeep Yadav (5 wickets in 4.01 runs per over) have been tight as usual while Jasprit Bumrah (7 wickets with 3.37 runs per over) has been exceptional at the death with his yorkers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (6 wickets at 4.08 per over), in his comeback tournament, has also been consistent. There is a possibility that India might rest both Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah before the summit clash to help them recharge their batteries.
In such a scenario, two among Deepak Chahar, Siddharth Kaul and Khaleel Ahmed will take their spots in the playing XI for the game.
For Afghanistan, a win against Indian will be a great end to the tournament where they have been competitive throughout, only losing out due to lack of experience and are likely to retain their playing XI.
With 327 runs in four games so far in Asia Cup, Shikhar Dhawan’s miseries in England seem to be a distant memory. Throughout the tournament, India openers have provided them a solid foundation and India will be looking for another solid show on Tuesday.
Before the tournament, all eyes were on Afghan spin attack. Their batting has traditionally remained volatile, but Hashmatullah Shahidi along with Rahmat Shah have shown that they have a patient middle-order that can build on a brisk start from the openers and set the stage for lower-order power hitters to finish the job. With 263 runs in four games, Shahidi is the third-highest run-getter after Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan and Afghanistan will want him to be at his best to face the Indian spin threat.
Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Deepak Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah
Mohammad Shahzad, Ihsanulluah Janat, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Stanikzai, Hasmat Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Najibullah Zadran/Samiullah Shenwari, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Aftab Alam