The Asia Cup reaches the business end of the tournament with the Super Four stage beginning on Friday.
Ahead of the game, we look at the talking points:
WILL PAKISTAN BATSMEN RESPOND AFTER MICKEY ARTHUR’S STRONG WORDS?
The South African didn’t hold back during Wednesday’s post-match press conference when he criticised the batsmen after they were bowled out for 162. In particular, young opener Imam-Ul-Haq and captain Sarfraz Ahmed came in the firing line.
“We sorted of batted outside our roles, which was very disappointing,” he said. “Imam Ul-Haq – it’s not his role to be running down to Bhuvenshwar Kumar in the third over. It’s not Sarfraz’s role to be hitting over the top and getting caught out there. We’ve got X-Factor guys whose role it is to do that.
“If Fakhar Zaman gets out playing that, it’s okay. If Asif Ali gets out like that, it’s okay because that’s his role. But the other four batsmen certainly need to take responsibility.”
No surprise then that Pakistan were back in the nets at the ICC Academy even though it was optional on Thursday evening. Sarfraz and Fakhar Zaman were among the batsmen to spend time in the scorching heat.
Pakistan arrived in the UAE buoyed by a 5-0 ODI series whitewash against Zimbabwe but there were always question marks whether they would be able to pile on the runs against stronger opposition.
On Wednesday, we found out the answer to that question. They rather gifted the wickets to India with some poor shot selection rather than letting Rohit Sharma’s side earn it.
Fortunately the India defeat didn’t have too much riding on the result considering both teams had already qualified but more performances like these with the bat and they can say goodbye to lifting the trophy on September 28.
BACK-TO-BACK GAMES FOR AFGHANISTAN
The Afghans will go into the fixture with a lack of rest following their final pool game against Bangladesh on Thursday. Despite it being a dead rubber, Phil Simmons decided on making just one change with Samiullah Shenwari coming for Najibullah Zadran. It means his players will have to recover fast when they face Pakistan. Given that Afghanistan will have to make a 90-minute trip back to their team hotel in Dubai from Abu Dhabi and again to the UAE capital for Friday’s fixture is another headache which they must overcome.
That could work well give Pakistan the advantage especially as they had a full day’s rest while some of their players only took to the field for an optional training session.
The birthday boy Rashid Khan’s blitz (57*) at the end helped Afghanistan reach a competitive score of 255! Shakib Al Hasan was the pick of the bowlers with 10-1-42-4 #BANvAFG #AsiaCup2018 pic.twitter.com/nCc7iGUmpu— AsianCricketCouncil (@ACCMedia1) September 20, 2018
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (C), Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Junaid Khan, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan
Afghanistan: Asghar Afghan (C), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Ihsanullah Janat, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Aftab Alam, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Pakistan were bowled out for just 162 runs in the final Group A clash before India notched up the target with 21 overs to spare in the end.
Following the loss, Arthur expressed his unhappiness at the manner of dismissals of skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and opener Imam-ul-Haq.
“(For) Imam, it’s not his role to be running down the ground to Bhuvneshwar in the third over. It’s not Sarfy’s (Sarfraz’s) role to be hitting over the top and getting caught out there. We’ve got X-factor guys whose role it is to do that. If Fakhar (Zaman) gets out playing that way, it’s okay. If Asif (Ali) gets out like that it’s okay, because that’s his role. But the other four batsmen certainly need to take responsibility,” Arthur said.
“I just thought we were soft – 158 dot balls out of 258 played, is not good enough. It was just about taking responsibility tonight and we sort of batted outside our roles, which was very disappointing,” the South African added.
While the batting was far below expectations for Arthur, the bowling performance did not fill him with any confidence either.
“On a wicket like that, you need to strike really early if you’re going to defend it. We didn’t strike early enough. But, saying that, we went away from our plans too quickly. We said that our batters batted outside our roles and that wasn’t acceptable. With our bowling, we went outside our plans far too quickly. We wanted to bowl hard lengths, hit the top of off stump. It was tough to score then,” said the 50-year-old.
“I think there was a bit of panic when they didn’t strike early. We panicked and went away from our plans. We’re going to sit down and talk about that. It’s not good enough. Not acceptable.”
The meeting was the first of three potential Pakistan-India clashes in this year’s Asia Cup. The two sides will meet again in the Super Four stage with a potential final on the cards too. According to Arthur, Wednesday’s defeat should have no bearing on Pakistan’s upcoming matches against their arch-rivals.
“Whenever we go head-to-head with India I am comfortable that we’ve got a dressing room of players who can stand up to it. I am comfortable we’ve got a dressing room of players who, on any given day, can win. So I still think it’s a 50-50. Lucky this game was inconsequential in the tournament,” he concluded.
With Sri Lanka and Hong Kong knocked out following the culmination of the group stage, four teams remain in contention for the continent’s top crown.
With no rooms for error left for the remaining four teams anymore, we look at the talking points ahead of the Super Four opener.
INJURIES ROCK INDIA
India might have kept a perfect slate in the group stages with two wins out of two against Hong Kong and Pakistan, but it has come at a big cost. Already without the services of their talismanic skipper Virat Kohli for the tournament, India have now lost Hardik Pandya, Shardul Thakur and Axar Patel to injuries.
The three injured players have been replaced by Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar and Siddarth Kaul who flew to Dubai on Thursday to join the team. While Thakur and Patel did not feature in India’s win over Pakistan on Wednesday, Pandya did and his replacement Jadeja will be expected to get match ready just one day into his arrival at Dubai.
It will be interesting to see how Rohit Sharma and his men deal with these late and unexpected upheavals on Friday against the Tigers.
NO REST FOR THE TIGERS
While India have to deal with the late change in personnel, Bangladesh have a headache of their own. Less than 24 hours after taking on Afghanistan at Abu Dhabi in their final group clash, Mashrafe Mortaza and his men will have to take the field against India at Dubai.
While the travel time between the two cities is not much, it will still be an arduous task for the Tigers given the lack of down time between the two matches. It is no wonder then that Mortaza has slammed the scheduling of the tournament, especially with regards to India having the luxury of playing all their Super Four games at Dubai.
What’s more, the Tigers fielded a strong playing XI against Afghanistan on Thursday despite the game being a dead rubber. Only two players – Mushfiqur Rahim and Mustafizur Rahman – were granted a rest and that decision could backfire for the side given the heat and humidity currently prevailing over the UAE at the moment.
CHANCE FOR BANGLADESH TO AVENGE NIDAHAS LOSS
The last time these two teams met, Dinesh Karthik’s last-ball six broke Bangla hearts and clinched the Nidahas T20 tri-series for India at Colombo in March this year. The two teams have been fairly well matched in the ODI format in recent times with India going on to win three of the last five encounters while Bangladesh have triumphed twice.
The last ODI meeting between the two sides came in the ICC Champions Trophy in England last year with India prevailing handsomely by nine wickets at Birmingham.
India are the No2 ranked ODI outfit in the world currently while the Tigers have improved significantly in limited-overs cricket over the past few years. Bangladesh recently triumphed in the away ODI series against the West Indies and were mighty impressive in their group stage win over Sri Lanka. As such, it will not be an easy task for Rohit’s men who were highly unconvincing in their win over Hong Kong.
BANGLADESH: Liton Das, Mominul Haque, Shakib Al Hasan, Mohammad Mithun, Mushfique Rahim (wk), Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza (c), Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman.
INDIA: Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah.
VENUE: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai
TIME: 15:30 GST