Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed knows his team is seen as heavy favourites to win the Asia Cup. The men in green won five matches in a row in the UAE against Sri Lanka last year before losing their way during a horror tour of New Zealand where they lost five ODIs. However, they got back on track in Zimbabwe, winning five ODIs in a row and now with a first-choice team to choOse from, look good to succeed in the UAE.
India are missing Virat Kohli and are returning from England after losing the ODI and Test series with question marks over the form of many players. Sri Lanka will be without Dinesh Chandimal while veteran pace ace Lasith Malinga is coming back after a year.
Pakistan, however, seem to be running smoothly and Sarfraz says the continuity in selection has helped the team become serious challengers after the 2017 Champions Trophy win.
“When I was announced captain before Champions Trophy, we had a very young team. Our job was to give confidence to the youngsters. The way we won the tournament was a big boost for us. After that we had a meeting with the selectors and coaching staff and we went with the same team,” Sarfraz said during the launch of the Asia Cup alongside the other five captains.
“We didn’t make many chances. Young players responded well like Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf. They are getting better day by day. That’s why our one-day cricket has improved.”
Like most sides, Pakistan too have a busy schedule with series’ against Australia and the Kiwis lined up after the Asia Cup. Sarfraz said the Asia Cup is a starting point of sorts in the World Cup journey with the showpiece event being the ultimate target.
“If we play it series by series, it will be better. Pakistan have a busy schedule ahead. Journey is on for World Cup. Now we have Asia Cup, after that series against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. We will look to improve as we move to the World Cup so we know where we stand and how our players are doing.”
Pakistan began training for the Asia Cup at the ICC Academy in Dubai with their sights set firmly on their second match of the tournament – against India.
Pakistan have a lot going for them ahead of the India clash. They defeated their rivals the last time the two teams met – in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy last year in England. There they thumped favourites India by 180 runs to register one of the most comprehensive wins in a world event.
The Indian team has suffered losses in the ODI and Test series in England with the reputation of many players, apart from Virat Kohli, taking a big hit after heavy defeats. Moreover, Kohli himself will be not be in the UAE to take part in the tournament, with Rohit Sharma leading the side.
All this means Pakistan should hold the upper hand in the Dubai clash, especially since the UAE is like their second home.
But Pakistan all-rounder Faheem Ashraf said India can’t be taken lightly even though they are without their best batsman and main captain.
“Even if Virat Kohli isn’t coming, India are still a world-class team. You can’t take them lightly. We are practising at 100 per cent. Be it bowler, batsman or fielder. If we give our 100 per cent, I am sure we will win that match,” Ashraf said after training on Wednesday.
The main focus for Ashraf, who has become a reliable seam-bowling all-rounder in all three formats, is to get into the playing XI as the men in green might be tempted to have more spin bowling options. However, Ashraf said all he can do is give it his best and not worry about selection.
“My job is to play at my best. Being in the playing XI is the job of the coach. I am sure that if I keep giving the performances, I will be in the playing XI. And obviously, it’s the dream of every player to play against India.”
Guyana were set a target of 123 after Tanvir picked up two wickets (2-38) alongside new-ball bowler Chris Green (2-8) to peg back Trinbago. In the chase, Guyana lost their way and were down and almost out at 105-8 in the 18th over.
The equation came down to four needed from the final over but Tanvir played out three dot balls against T20 veteran Dwayne Bravo. However, off the penultimate delivery Tanvir hit a six down the ground to send the Warriors into the final.
An absolutely incredible ending, after the run out of Hetmyer the Warriors seemed destined for defeat, but a string of boundaries from Shepard and finally Tanvir have won it for them #CPL18 #GAWvTKR #BiggestPartyinSport pic.twitter.com/uCY3ZTVcaw— CPL T20 (@CPL) September 12, 2018
Tanvir has enjoyed a brilliant CPL T20 so far. In 10 matches, he has picked up 12 wickets at an economy of less than eight an over.
Tanvir’s thrilling six brought back memories of the inaugural IPL final in 2008.
There, the left-arm seamer was playing for Rajasthan Royals under Shane Warne. In the final against Chennai Super Kings, Tanvir was on strike with one run needed from the final ball for the title.
Tanvir then smashed seamer Lakshmipathy Balaji past mid-on to script one of the most memorable chapters in modern cricketing history – Rajasthan Royal’s incredible victory and the success of the IPL model.