The sternest rivalry in world cricket continues as India and Pakistan face off for the second time in the tournament today (September 23) at the Dubai International Stadium in Dubai in what could be a precursor to the Asia Cup 2018 final next Friday (September 28). Both sides won their first Super Four games (against Bangladesh and Afghanistan, respectively), meaning that the winner of this contest will secure a place in the big dance.
Sarfraz Ahmed-led Pakistan return to Dubai, where India have played all three matches to date, a big advantage in the unrelenting UAE heat, even in spite of the scheduling which had them playing two group stage games back to back.
India are finding some nice momentum particularly with the ball, all five bowlers who played in the win against Bangladesh on Friday were brilliant. Ravindra Jadeja capitalised on a return to the side after 442 days in place of Hardik Pandya, picking up four wickets in his ODI comeback.
The Men in Blue kept Bangladesh to just one boundary during the 16th and 30th overs – more pressure than the men in green could sustain – and Jadeja was responsible for firing through five of those match-winning overs.
Pakistan were simply atrocious in the field against Afghanistan, dropping no less than five catches, including half-centurions Hashmatullah once and Asghar twice. Eighteen-year-old debutant Shaheen Afridi dropped two himself and the other three spilled were during his overs.
The group stage match between India and Pakistan – the two nations’ first meeting since last year’s Champions Trophy final – was an anti-climax. Barring some middle order resistance from Babar Azam (47) and Shoaib Malik (43), India asphyxiated Pakistan with some wonderful line and length bowling.
The match could long be remembered for the resurgence of ‘Kedar Jadhav the bowler’, the 1.65 metre ‘mini Malinga’ bamboozled Pakistan with his unique action and angles, taking three wickets in an innings for just the second time in his 24 ODIs in which he has sent down some of his part-time spinners.
Based on the way India’s full-time bowlers played against Bangladesh, he may not be required yet again – even if India’s passionate fanbase continues to demand to see more of him as they did on Friday evening.
Players to watch: Shikhar Dhawan (India) is in superb form, averaging 55.5 in his last six ODIs with no score lower than 36. While, Shoaib Malik (Pakistan) moved to 12th on the all-time run scorer list for ODIs played in the UAE (1,232) with his 51* against Afghanistan.
Stat attack: Since his ODI debut, only Chris Gayle (183) has hit more sixes than Rohit Sharma (176). And, Pakistan have won all six ODIs where Imam-ul-Haq has scored fifty or more.