Picture used for illustrative purpose only.
Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
After a thumping victory over Hong Kong, a resilient-but-depleted Pakistan will look to avenge their loss against India in their Asia Cup Super 4 match in Dubai on Sunday.
In a fresh injury blow, pace bowler Shahnawaz Dahani has been ruled out of the India match due to a suspected strain, according to a statement issued by the PCB.
He picked up the injury during their match against Hong Kong in Sharjah on Friday.
Pakistan have been battling injury woes since the beginning of the tournament.
Even before the start of the Asia Cup, pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi was ruled out of the tournament after that Mohammad Wasim Junior also got injured.
In the absence of Dahani, either Mohammad Hasnain or Hasan Ali is likely to be included in the playing XI. If they give preference to experience then Ali has more chances of making it to the playing XI.
Their bowlers were also peaking at the right time. Dahani and Naseem Shah had been impressive and intimidating the batsmen with their pace, setting the tone for the innings with early dismissals.
However, Naseem will have a new bowling partner against India as it will be interesting to see whether he finds the same rhythm with the new partner.
With both the teams being in the top-notch form, the match is likely to live up to its billing, which will keep the fans on their toes with a nail-biting finish.
After losing their opening match against India, Pakistan vented their anger on a hapless Hong Kong, throwing down the gauntlet ahead of the Super 4 stage.
The way Pakistan trounced the Hong Kong, it must have sent a shiver down the spine of the teams like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, who limped into the second round, fearing to be meted out with the same kind of treatment.
Apart from bringing in a replacement for Dahani, Pakistan are likely to field an unchanged side against India as they will not want to tweak with the winning combination.
Pakistan executed their game plan perfectly as they kept the wickets in hands and unleashed the ambush in the second half of the innings, scoring 129 in the last 10 overs, 77 came in last five.
Khushdil Shah heralded his return to form with a 15-ball 35 blitz. He lived up to his reputation of being one of the best hitters of the ball. The top order can rely on him to spur the run rate towards the end.
Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman also clicked with the bat at the right time. Both the batsmen seem to be hitting the right notes. Rizwan’s fifty in T20 came after three matches and eight months while Fakhar reached the figure after six innings and 10 months.
Pakistan’s most iconic batsman and captain Babar Azam is yet to click in the tournament. He came into the tournament on the back of two fifties but the last one came way back in April.
He is due to play a big knock after the scores of 9, and 10. If he finds his touch, it will be a big boost for Pakistan and headache for their opponents.
Pakistan’s rout of Hong Kong saw many records tumbling. Both Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz returned with their best bowling figures, picking up four and three wickets conceding 8 and 3 runs respectively.
None of Hong Kong batsmen could reach double figure mark, extras were the biggest contributors in the Hong Kong’s innings — a whopping 10 runs.
This is an area of concern for Pakistan as they cannot afford such a wayward bowling against cricket powerhouse India. It can make a big difference.
On the other hand, India, who finished the first round on the top of their group with two straight wins, are brimming with confidence.
India will look to maintain their winning momentum. They came into the tournament on the back of two series victories are unbeaten at the Asia Cup.
India have struggled with the opening pair. They are yet to find the right opening combination. But their middle order is very strong.
Their only worry was Virat Kohli’s form. He also seems to be rediscovering the magic touch as the star batsman scored 35 and an unbeaten 59 against Pakistan and Hong Kong respectively.
This was his first fifty in T20Is after 30 matches.
Players like Hardik Pandya, Suryakumar Yadav and Dinesh Karthik further consolidate the middle-order. Hardik is likely to return to the playing XI in place of Rishabh Pant or Karthik.
The return of Hardik will give Rohit more options in bowling as well. He took three wickets in the last match against Pakistan. Suryakumar also flexed his muscles against Hong Kong, steering India to 192/2.
For India, skipper Rohit is due to play a big innings after two dismal outings. If Rohit gets going, he is unstoppable. A few kinky match-ups between Babar Azam and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rohit and Nawaz are likely to spice up the contest even more.