India vs Pakistan: Brace for another cliffhanger in Dubai today

India take on a rejuvenated Pakistan in Asia Cup Super Four today



by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sun 4 Sep 2022, 12:42 AM

Like the riveting Netflix blockbuster, Squid Game, that has kept fans hoping for a new season, last Sunday’s cliffhanger between India and Pakistan under Dubai’s iconic Ring of Fire did manage to whet the appetite for another round of battle between cricket’s fiercest rivals.

The first encounter in this DP World Asia Cup kept fans on the edge of their seats until the flat-batted last-over hit from the irresistible Hardik Pandya flew over the long-on boundary.

But it was Pakistan’s fightback after their batting collapse that stirred the soul.

And you felt sorry for Naseem Shah, the latest sensation to have come out of the legendary Pakistani fast-bowling factory, when he collapsed on the ground with severe cramps, after having bowled with fiery pace and prodigious swing.

Then their demolition act against Hong Kong, a team that showed plenty of skills and spirit against India, indicates that it’s a team that’s growing in confidence.

Pakistan's batting conundrum

Babar Azam, arguably the finest batsman in world cricket across formats for the past 12 months, has yet to roll out his range of sumptuous drives and majestic pulls in this tournament.

The skipper will be under pressure to lead from the front on Sunday after his two failures in the first two games.

But Mohammad Rizwan, Babar’s opening partner, and Fakhar Zaman, were on the money on a slow wicket against Hong Kong, setting the platform for Khushdil Shah's final flourish at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

The Pakistanis are brimming with exciting stroke-makers in the middle order. It remains to be seen, though, if the likes of Khushdil, Asif Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan have what it takes to cope with the spine-tingling tension of an India-Pakistan game.

Mickey Arthur, Pakistan's former coach, suggested a change in the team's top order. "Bring Zaman into the opening slot, and let either Babar or Rizwan bat at number three," Arthur told Cricinfo, saying the change would allow the more aggressive Zaman to bat more overs and go hard against the hard new ball.

The Asia Cup is the ideal dress rehearsal for this year's T20 World Cup (October 16-November 13) in Australia and teams in the Super Four stage might be tempted to try out a few things.

But given the high stakes of cricket's biggest derby, it's unlikely that Pakistan will tinker with their top order on Sunday.

Axar for Jadeja

India, though, will miss Ravindra Jadeja, who played a key role in the team's opening win over their arch-rivals with a gritty knock at number four.

Jadeja is likely to be ruled out of the T20 World Cup with a serious knee injury. But India have got a like-for-like replacement in Axar Patel.

A left-arm spinner who brings his explosive batting talent to India's lower order, Axar has made remarkable progress over the past 12 months in international cricket.

But the concern for India will be their pace attack. Avesh Khan and Arshdeep Singh, who had a reasonably good game against Pakistan, proved expensive against the inexperienced Hong Kong batting line-up.

The onus could once again be on pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Pandya and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal to keep the Pakistan batsmen on a tight leash.

All three of them were hugely efficient last Sunday, but the Pakistan batsmen's inability to handle the pressure of the occasion also played a part in boosting the figures of the Indian bowlers.

Top-order under the scanner

There will also be pressure on the Indian top-order. KL Rahul's battle for his top form continues after his return from injury.

And skipper Rohit Sharma, who came under the barrage of pace and swing from Naseem in the opening game on Sunday, perished against Hong Kong while trying to be the torch-bearer of India's new aggressive batting approach.

Then there is the curious case of Virat Kohli, who looks a pale shadow of the player that once sent shivers down the spine of every opposition bowler.

Naseem's threat

There will be no Shahnawaz Dahani, the other rising fast bowler in Pakistan's camp who has been ruled out due to a suspected side strain.

But the Indian top-order will still have to deal with Naseem, whose inspired opening over on his T20I debut last Sunday set the pulses racing as he bowled Rahul and almost had Kohli caught in the slip, setting the platform for Pakistan's brave fightback.

It could be another fascinating contest at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday.

And if India get to chase, Naseem will relish the evening conditions to unleash his deadly combination of swing and pace against an Indian top-order that is currently in a battle with itself to rediscover its glorious touch.

Today's match

Super Four

India vs Pakistan

Dubai International Cricket Stadium

6 pm UAE Time

Head-to-head

Matches 10

India won 7

Pakistan won 2

Tied 1

Did you know?

Rohit Sharma has been dismissed in three of eight T20I innings against Pakistan within the first two balls.

Teams

India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Rishabh Pant/Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Avesh Khan, 10 Arshdeep Singh, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Pakistan (probable): 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Fakhar Zaman, 4 Iftikhar Ahmed, 5 Khushdil Shah, 6 Shadab Khan, 7 Asif Ali, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Naseem Shah, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Hasan Ali/Mohammad Hasnain.


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