Asia Cup 2018, the virtual World Cup of South Asia in the desert heat of UAE is shaping towards business session.
Favorites Bangladesh, India, Pakistan all winning their first matches are joined by tweeting Afghanistan for the business session. Five times champions of the past, Sri Lanka and qualifier Hong Kong completing their two matches each in their respective groups are eliminated.
Bangladesh after some initial hiccup against Sri Lanka destroyed Lankan pride clinically making a strong statement in the tournament. Even improving Afghans in the do or die match of the Lankans almost proved too hot to handle.
Hathurusingha coached squad batted spinelessly, fielded extremely poorly and looked as a pretty ordinary team. Pakistan crushed Hong Kong but Hong Kong stressed India to their limit before going down fighting.
Today India meets traditional rival Pakistan in UAE for the first time in 12 years. Bangladesh would also play against Afghanistan tomorrow which again is expected to be a mouth watering contest. At the present state of the tournament all four teams looking ready for a very interesting and intriguing business session of the tournament.
Summer in UAE is taking temperature beyond 40 degree Celsius. For Asian countries it should not be strange. But playing few matches in short duration of the tournament is definitely energy sapping and needs lots of mental and physical strength, great concentrations. Teams enduring that, would go to the distance.
Bangladesh crushed Sri Lanka In tournament opener.
For many reasons the clash between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in recent times has become a very interesting dual. Bangladesh had a very successful West Indies and USA tour winning ODI and T20I series after a demoralizing Test series. Sri Lanka had success at home against South Africa.
Bangladesh was rocked early when Mashrafe elected to bat on an apparently dry and bald wicket. Maestro Malinga swinging the new ball appreciably with his trademark slinging action and natural swing teased and tormented early order of Bangladesh.
Litton and Shakib had no answer to the brilliant spell of Malinga opening overs. Litton poked to the slip and Shakib had his furniture’s disturbed from a lethal Yorker.
Tamim getting his fingers injured created huge challenges for little Mushy and relatively new Mithun. Sri Lanka dropped both batsmen looking tentative against top quality Lankan bowling. Once they were let off Mushfiqur and Mithun batted brilliantly defying scorching heat and humidity.
This pair took Bangladesh to a comfort zone before Malinga returning in his second spell broke the partnership removing Mithun. But Mushfiqur went on scoring a brilliant 144 despite of his injury in rib cage. Bangladesh scored 261. The event of the tournament was perhaps injured Tamim appearing to bat with his bandaged finger and holding the bat one handed. It was a symbol of commitment and patriotism.
His heroics transfused confidence in the team. Bangladesh batting and fielding like injured Tigers crushed Sri Lanka never letting them regrouping. Mashrafe, Mustafiz, Miraz all bowled exceedingly well.
World knows how great Mashrafe changes his charge with his midas touch. Winning by 137 runs, Bangladesh made a strong statement announcing their intentions very loudly in the tournament.
However, losing Tamim through injury, not 100% of Mushfiqur and Shakib have created some worries for the team. Bangladesh will play Afghanistan tomorrow which is now a merely academic as both the team has quaffed for the group of four.
Afghanistan Spun Out Sri Lanka
World cricket is witnessing the emergence of yet another brilliant cricket nation. Continuous conflicts and ethnic confrontations creates headlines of Afghanistan in world media. But off late Rashid Khan, Mijanur Rahman, Mohammad Nabi, Stanikjais are writing scripts of fairly tale.
Afghan cricketers are rocking the world cricket. After losing the first match against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka was expected to bounce back against Afghans. But brilliant Afghans never allowed Lankans any respite.
They batted brilliantly winning the toss though a late order collapse. But world class spin bowling of Mujeeb, Rashid Khan, and Mohammad Nabi crushed Sri Lanka to a huge defeat of 91 runs.
Sri Lanka got all out for 158. The back to back defeats let Sri Lanka getting knocked out. Many questions will be raised now about Lankan batting and especially their poor fielding.
Some persons would point figures towards controversial coach Haruasngha. But actually Bangladesh and Afghanistan are far better side than Sri Lanka in the shorter version of the game. Yet better fielding by Lankans could create better contests. Malinga bowled exceptionally well. He did not deserve to be in the losing side in both the matches.
Pakistan Proved Too Strong For Hong Kong
Tournament hot favorite Pakistan proved too strong for ICC associate member Hong Kong. This Pakistan team possess the best bowling attack at the moment with fast penetrative pace bowling experts in traditional and reverse swing. Hong Kong was never a match for strong Pakistan.
Winning the toss and electing to bat Hong Kong did well going to triple figures of 116 runs. Usman Khan, Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan did all the damage. This attack also possess Mohammad Amir and Faheem Ashraf who can put the best batsmen of any team to test on any wicket.
Playing this attack would be a huge task in this tournament for any team. Chasing this target was a cake walk for Pakistan. Hong Kong is a team comprising mostly of Pakistani and Indian migrants.
For them it was beyond their limited bowling resources containing free stroking Pakistani batsmen. Imam Ul Huq, nephew of great Inzamam – Ul – Haque scored a cultured unbeaten half century. Hong Kong bowlers manage to remove blaster Fakhar Zaman early and take the prized wicket of Babar Azam. Pakistan raced to victory in 23.4 overs winning by 8 wickets.
Hong Kong Scared India
Playing Pakistan and India back to back in ODI anywhere in the world can be a huge challenge for any team of the world. One can imagine what can be the depth and diversity of that challenge for a qualifier of the ICC associate country of Asia.
India piled up a massive 285/7 riding on a punishing 125 by Shikhar Dhawan and 60 from Ambati Rayudu. All thought Indian bowlers would crush the Hong kong batting. But openers Nizakat Khan and the skipper blasting Indian bowling all over the park threatened to overrun the target in a brilliant aggressive opening partnership. Nizakat scored 92 while the Hong Kong skipper scored 73.
If one of them could carry on, the victory was not beyond their reach. Indian bowlers could squeeze Hong Kong all out for 259 winning by 26 runs.
Even the staunchest of Indian admirers were biting their nails scaring for an upset. Well done Hong Kong for going down fighting. They more than justified their presence in the tournament. Indian bowling looked less penetrative.
Preview of Pakistan India Derby:
Pakistan meets its traditional rival India today in another much sought after mouth watering contest in UAE after 12 years since they last met in 2006. India is the current icky world champion and Pakistan won the Champions trophy crashing India in the final.
The sold out match would be watched by billions around the world. Pakistan off late have matured few quality quality batsmen. If Pakistani batsmen can provide a 270-280 runs capital the four prong blistering pace attack of Amir, Usman, Hasan Ali and Fahim Ashraf assisted by quality leggie Shadab Khan can take real test of Indian batting.
Off course Indian batting having Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik and MS Dhoni can work out ways of manipulating a good enough score to put challenge for Pakistan. Fakhar Zaman is in prolific form of Saeed Anwar mode.
Young tall Imam-Ul –Haque is also maturing, Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik are ideal middle order batsmen. Sarfraz Ahmed and Asif Ali would blast if early order can set an ideal platform. But the real war would be between top Pakistani bowling attack against top quality Indian batting. The group match today is extremely important.
Pakistan is in better stead as India may be a bit worked out after a very tiring English tour. Pakistan is relatively fresh. If the first match of the two teams gives any indication Pakistan looked better equipped.
Indian bowlers were huffing and puffing in containing Hong Kong batsmen while Pakistani bowlers destroyed them. Four Pakistani pacers are of four different style. All have ability for traditional swing and reverse swing. Indian batsmen failed against Anderson and Broad.
Amir, Hasan, Usman and Fahim may prove lethal for Indian batting. On the other hand B Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Chahal and Pandya can prove decisive for the Indians.
MS Dhoni is still an X-Factor in the limited over match. Whatever be the strength on paper, India Pakistan match can be anybody’s game. India has an edge over India in ODI. But UAE is a happy hunting ground for Pakistan.
Cricket world must keep their fingers crossed for a mouth watering contest. There may be opportunity for three Pakistan-India derby this time in Asia Cup.
My money today is on Pakistan.
Possible Playing Eleven:
Rohit Sharma , Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu , Dinesh Karthik MS Dhoni , K Jada, H Pandya ,Jaspreet Bumrah, Y Chahal, Shardul Thakur and Khaleel Ahmed
Fakhar Zaman , Imam Ul Haq , Babar Azam , Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed , Asif Ali , Fahim Ashraf ,Shadab Khan , Mohammad Amir , Hasan Ali and Usman Khan