Asia Cup 2018, Super 4, India vs Pakistan: Probable lineups and prediction
The Super-four stage of the Asia Cup 2018 has started. Both India and Pakistan beat their opponents in their respective first games. India had an easy time dispatching Bangladesh as they achieved the target of 174 with almost 14 overs to spare. So, that was hardly a contest. Bangladesh never looked like they had any chance of winning that game.
On the other hand, the Pakistan vs Afghanistan match was a well contested nail-biting affair that went down to the wire. Shoaib Malik's experience saw Pakistan pull it off in the last over.
Pakistan, however, learned a few lessons of their own. They learned that spinners, in fact, are invaluable weapons on the dry pitches of the UAE. They also learned that the value that an experienced player adds to their side is indispensable. Most importantly, their batting line-up got the experience of playing against high-quality spinners. That experience can, presumably, only be helpful to them when they meet India again.
India and Pakistan are now going to clash for a second time in this tournament on September 23rd in Dubai, once again. The first encounter three days ago was a forgettable affair for Pakistan.
India dominated that match and outclassed Pakistan in all three segments of the match - batting, bowling, and fielding. The jitters of that first game are now a thing of the past. Both teams are better prepared for the second face-off. As a result, unlike the first match-up, the second encounter is shaping up to be a mouth-watering clash that has the potential to live up to the huge expectations of the fans on both sides of the border.
So, let's make a few predictions- about the possible changes to expect in the playing XI for both sides and the eventual winner of this mega-clash.
India's probable XI is as follows:
R. Sharma, S. Dhawan, L. Rahul, MS Dhoni, D. Karthik, K. Jadhav, R. Jadeja, B. Kumar, K. Yadav, Y. Chahal, J. Bumrah.
India is likely to make one change from its previous match against Bangladesh. They will bring in Lokesh Rahul in place of Ambati Rayudu. Kohli's absence has left India's upper middle order weaker than usual.
Rayudu's induction into the #3 spot hasn't so far instilled the kind of confidence into the Indian batting line-up that they would be comfortable with going into the business end of the tournament. So, expect India to bring in Lokesh Rahul as Rayudu's replacement. The rest of the line-up from the Bangladesh encounter will remain the same.
Pakistan's probable XI is as follows:
F. Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, B. Azam, S. Malik, S. Nawaz, A. Ali, S. Khan, M. Nawaz, H. Ali, M. Amir, S. Afridi
Pakistan will exhibit a renewed confidence in its spinners. Expect them, for the first time in this year's tournament, to field two specialist spinners in the form of Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz.
In Pakistan's first match against India, Shadab was clearly effective. He removed an in-form Rohit Sharma with the first ball of his spell. Unfortunately, a back spasm prevented him from taking further part in that match.
His replacement, Nawaz, in Pakistan's next match against Afghanistan, made an immediate and effective impact as he finished the match with three wickets. So, expect Pakistan to bring back Shadab in place of Faheem Ashraf. Moreover, Amir will probably return to the line-up replacing Usman Khan.
Who will win the match?
The team that wins the toss will elect to field. Thus far, it's become clear in the tournament that batting second, under lights, is a much better option than what teams have been winning the toss and doing, so far - which is batting first.
Pakistan's more balanced and condition-specific attack will pose a much greater challenge to the Indian batting line-up than it has so far encountered in the tournament. A quick early wicket or two will bring India's brittle middle-order in play earlier than they would prefer.
On the other hand, Pakistan, after having succumbed to India's part-time spinner, Kedar Jadhav, in their first encounter, will be wary of facing Ravindra Jadeja. Jadeja will be a handful for the Pakistani batsmen to handle on the Dubai pitch.
Moreover, Jadeja will be looking forward to settling score with the Pakistan team that had punished his bowling in the CT final last year.
In the end, India's in-form and strong batting line-up along with its battery of four spinners will prove too much for Pakistan. The match, however, will be an engrossing affair and will serve as the perfect set-up for a potential third clash between these two in the finals of the Asia Cup in a week's time.