India will play Sri Lanka in the second match for both teams in the Super Four competition of this year’s Asia Cup. The game will again be staged at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday, September 6th and is scheduled to begin at 6 pm local time.
India came through as Group A winners, having beaten both Pakistan and Hong Kong to justify their status as pre-tournament favourites. However, their match against Pakistan had been a game of fine margins first time round, and when they met again in Dubai a week later, it was the Pakistanis who got the breaks this time in another tight match.
It means that, conceivably, if they lose this match, their tournament could be as good as over, with their final game against Pakistan reduced to the status of a dead rubber.
A week ago, Sri Lanka’s participation in the competition looked to be as good as over after they were thrashed in their opening Group B game by the Afghans. But they squeezed past Bangladesh in another tight finish to progress as runners-up.
And, when they played Afghanistan again, this time they were far more competitive and chased down their opponent’s total to win by four wickets in the final over of the game. If they can win this game as well, then they can begin to look forward to a final that seemed so unlikely just a few days ago.
Head to head
The two teams have played each other 20 times before in the Asia Cup and the current head to head record is 10 wins apiece. Their last meeting in the competition was in 2016, with India winning the match by five wickets.
Most of those games were ODIs, though. India have much the better record in T20Is, having won 17 out of their previous 25 encounters, with one match ending with no result.
If Sri Lanka are to have any hopes in this match, they have to bat well, and Kusal Mendis can expect to have a big part to play. He was the top scorer against both Bangladesh and Afghanistan (second time round) and seems to be in good form right now.
The Indian team will know Sri Lankan leg spinner Hasaranga very well from his time playing in the Indian T20 league with the Royal Challengers Bangalore, and know that, on his day, he can be a very effective bowler in T20 cricket. They will need to treat him with due respect.
The Indian captain has been scratching around for his best form recently, and needs a big innings to help his self-belief. This could be an opportunity to get some runs on the board.
With the debate raging among Indian cricket fans as to who should play in the position of wicketkeeper/batter in the World Cup, Pant has another opportunity to lay down a marker and show why he should be chosen rather than Dinesh Karthik.
As ever, the pitch should be even, offering early assistance to the pace bowlers, before offering turn later in the match. Winning the toss and choosing to field first has proved to be the winning formula so far in this tournament.
India will again be without Ravindra Jadeja, ruled out of the tournament with injury, whilst Axar Patel is still struggling with illness. Against the Pakistanis, they opted to play with an extra batter, Deepak Hooda, and Dinesh Karthik was dropped to make way for him. Arguably, that decision backfired, because they missed Karthik’s ability as a finisher, so he could be recalled in the upcoming match. But, if that is at the expense of Rishabh Pant, the selectors will need to brace themselves for the wave of criticism that will surely come their way – especially if the move backfires.
Sri Lanka, however, will field an unchanged team and will be hoping to maintain their momentum.
On paper, at least, India will start the clear favourites for this match, even though their side has yet to fire on all cylinders in this tournament so far. They will still have hopes of being crowned champions for a record eighth time next Sunday, and should not be panicking after their defeat to Pakistan.
Sri Lanka, as the underdogs, though, can go into the match with the pressure off, and, even if they lose this match, know they will have a second bite of the cherry in their final game against Pakistan.
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