Old foes face off in crucial tie

Old foes face off in crucial tie

India, Pakistan renew rivalry in a must-win encounter of the continental bash

Old foes face off in crucial tie

Driven into a corner after their defeat to Sri Lanka, India will look to regroup quickly and plug their loopholes as they go into the make or break match against arch-rivals Pakistan in the Asia Cup here on Sunday.

With back-to-back victories over Pakistan and India, Sri Lanka have virtually assured themselves of a berth in the final and now it’s appears a two-way battle between the traditional rivals to be the other finalists in the five-nation tournament.

Both teams go into the match on an even keel, a win and one loss each, but defending champions Pakistan have a slight edge as they have a bonus point in their kitty from their win against associate nation Afghanistan.

India registered a facile victory over hosts Bangladesh in their tournament opener but went down to Sri Lanka by two wickets on Friday night. Pakistan were also beaten by a narrow 12-run margin by the same opponents in their opening match of the Asia Cup.
For India, it was Virat Kohli’s sparkling century that did the job against Bangladesh, while for Pakistan Umar Akmal’s timely ton saved them from what could have been an embarrassing loss to Afghanistan.

But the sheer importance of the contest will mean that the past records will have little relevance as the two teams look to renew their rivalry.

A new look middle order’s lack of execution would be a concern for the Indian team and the team management might think of including Cheteshwar Pujara to bring in some solidity.

With time running out fast for India in this tournament, it will be a riddle if Pujara continues to warm the bench.

Test specialist Pujara might not have been in the hard-hitting mould but he would be capable of providing the much needed stability, which was lacking in the Indian batting up against Sri Lanka.

Failure of Ambati Rayudu (18), Dinesh Karthik (4) and Stuart Binny (0) hurt India badly as Sri Lanka restricted them to 264 for nine.

With Shikhar Dhawan (94) and Kohli (48) giving India the top order push, India were on course for a 300-plus total but with the middle order collapse, the target proved insufficient in the end.

In bowling, too, India missed a third spinner to back Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin in the death overs, something Sri Lanka did wisely with Ajantha Mendis inclusion.

India went ahead with Binny but his innocuous medium pacers never really helped the cause. And it seemed that Amit Mishra would have been a better choice.

The fact that the leg-spinner is also pretty good with the bat, will certainly merit a selection for Sunday’s crucial game.

India, however, can take heart from the fact that Rahane and Dhawan are back among runs to provide a great support to Kohli.

It remains to be seen how India turn it around against their traditional foes but Pakistan, on their part, would not spare an inch when the two clash for the first time after their meeting in the ICC Champions Trophy, which Dhoni’s men had won.

Pakistan, too, face similar batting woes and the onus would be on skipper Misbah-ul-Haq to start fresh after his farcical run out without even facing a ball.

It is their bowling spearheaded, Umar Gul and left-arm pacer Junaid Khan who would be relied upon heavily.  But their spin department also has enough resources with the trio of Saeed Ajmal, Hafeez and Afridi to challenge the Indian batsmen.