Fancied India wary of unpredictable Pakistan

KEY MEN: Skipper Rohit Sharma's form and veteran Mahendra Singh Dhoni getting amongst runs augurs well for India. AFP

Favourites India have no grounds for complacency as they wait to see 'which' Pakistan turns up in the Asia Cup here on Sunday, well aware of the unpredictable arch-rivals' penchant for surprising not just opponents but themselves, too.

India are eyeing a place in the final after three wins in as many matches, while Pakistan will look to step up their game in the Super Four match, after a scare against Afghanistan.

India walloped Pakistan by eight wickets in the group game three days ago but if history is any indication, the Men in Blue can take their traditional rivals lightly at their own peril.

After being made to work hard by minnows Hong Kong in their tournament opener, India got their act together in the much-awaited group game against Pakistan and produced a clinical display to make short work of Sarfraz Ahmed's team.

Chasing a small target, India were hardly tested as a half-century from skipper Rohit Sharma ensured that the team was home with as many as 21 overs to spare.

Even without their talismanic captain Virat Kohli, the Indian batting looked formidable and lived up to the billing by scoring freely on surfaces that are not really perfect for stroke-play.

Opening the innings, Rohit was at his fluent best against Pakistan and followed that up with another fine knock of 83 in the seven-wicket win over Bangladesh, more than making up for the failure against Hong Kong.

Rohit's opener partner, Shikhar Dhawan has found himself amongst the runs, scoring in all three matches, including a century against Hong Kong.

The middle-order duo of Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik will again look to grab the opportunity by making useful contributions in the big game.

Veteran Mahendra Singh Dhoni managed to spend some time in the middle on Friday, remaining unbeaten on 33 off 37 balls. Then there is Kedar Jadhav, who has often proved his worth with the bat besides his bowling.

Coming back to the ODI side after more than a year, Ravindra Jadeja marked the occasion with a fine four-wicket haul against Bangladesh, and he seemed hungry for more. Pakistan will be wary of the threat posed by the left-arm spinner, who is also a handy bat lower down the order.

India will look to the pace duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah to make the initial breakthroughs and put Pakistan on the backfoot before the spinners are introduced.

Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav are the two mainline spinners, but it was Kedar, who picked up the most number of wickets among the slow bowlers in the last game against Pakistan.

Pakistan will look up to their seasoned campaigner Shoaib Malik for inspiration. All-rounder Malik made 43 against India and saved his team the blushes with a crucial knock against a spirited Afghanistan on Friday night.

Opener Fakhar Zaman, who made a name for himself with a match-winning hundred against India in the final of Champions Trophy last year, has flopped in the last two games.

He will look to make amends and so will be the likes of Babar Azam, Sarfraz and Iman-ul-Haq.

 

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Fancied India wary of unpredictable Pakistan

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