Show time as India take on Pakistan today

Show time as India take on Pakistan today
Online

FATULLAH: The Asia Cup is more about that elusive chance to witness one of the greatest sporting rivalries unfolds on a cricket field. In that light, it won’t be wrong to say that the tournament’s show-stopper will make its entry on Sunday in the form of India vs Pakistan clash. It’s the ‘intermittent’ nature of Indo-Pak contests that keeps the fans gunning for more – though the game would have loved to see that being governed by sporting agreements than political disagreements since Cyri Radcliffe penciled the line that put undivided India to bed and brought Pakistan to life.
More recently, since that famous 2011 World Cup semifinal in Mohali, there have been just five Indo-Pak ODIs spread across three years – with Pakistan remaining a no-go zone for international cricket and the Indian government’s response to inviting Pakistan ruled by political scenario between the two countries. History, though, doesn’t have much role to play in the high-octane Indo-Pak games. For the record, though, India beat Pakistan in their last meeting at the ICC Champions Trophy in England last year and hold a 5-4 head-to-head record in Asia Cup matches. India chased down a 330-run target in the last Asia Cup match against Pakistan, largely due to Virat Kohli’s 183 off 148 balls.
Sunday onwards, the 12th Asia Cup will switch venues from Fatullah to the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur where the rest of the tournament will be played. Both India and Pakistan have a win and a loss each from their two matches in the tournament so far. Incidentally, both the teams lost to a superior Sri Lankan outfit. Pakistan lost to the islanders in the opener by 12 runs while butterfingered India allowed the Lankans to snatch a two-wicket win on Friday.
Defending champions Pakistan came back to hammer Afghanistan and win with a bonus point, which keeps them ahead of India on the leaderboard. While Pakistan with 5 points are second behind table-toppers Sri Lanka (8 points), India are placed third with 4 points from their win over Bangladesh.
However, Pakistan pacer Umar Gul is still not back to his best since returning to the squad, but the improving Junaid Khan remains a threat, as do the two top-class Pakistan spinners Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi. But skipper Misbahul Haq will be more worried about his team’s batting than bowling. Wicketkeeper batsman Umar Akmal has so far carried the team’s batting with knocks of 74 against Sri Lanka and 102* against Afghanistan that got Pakistan out of jail. The team will depend on Umar, Misbah and Mohammad Hafeez for most of the runs with Sharjeel Khan, Shoaib Maqsood and Ahmad Shehzad looking to play their first match against India.
India felt the absence of MS Dhoni’s assurance lower down the order against Sri Lanka, where 20-25 more runs could have won India the game. And against a superior Pakistan bowling attack, the Kohli-led top order will have to take more responsibility. Shikhar Dhawan showed that with his 94 against SL and will have to carry on in that form. Rohit Sharma’s form has been a worry, which has resulted in India losing an early wicket in their last two games. That may force Kohli to mull over bringing Cheteshwar Pujara into the eleven as an opener.
India will like to play on that brittle nature of Pakistan batting, but largely through their spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja and to some extent Mohammad Shami if he can check his economy rate. Ashwin and Jadeja took wickets and were economical against Sri Lanka, but Shami gave away as many as 81 runs for his three wickets. Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled with discipline against the Lankans but will like to add something to his wickets column against Pakistan. The teams are not expected to make any changes to their eleven, unless India decide to address their opening woes by dropping Rohit for Pujara. Neither Pakistan nor India have yet brought out their A game in the tournament. But when it’s India vs Pakistan, rest assured that both will pull out all stops to end up as winners. 

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