The six-team Asia Cup tournament will be held in UAE beginning on September 15. Arch-rivals India and Pakistan are placed in Group A along with Hong Kong, who won the Asia Cup Qualifiers on Thursday. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan are put together in Group B. In the group stages, each team will play one match against the other two teams. Top two teams from each group will advance to the Super four stage. The top two finishers of the Super four will face each other for the trophy.
Here is the schedule of the tournament:
|15 Sep||B||Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka||Dubai|
|16 Sep||A||Pakistan vs Hong Kong||Dubai|
|17 Sep||B||Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan||Abu Dhabi|
|18 Sep||A||India vs Hong Kong||Dubai|
|19 Sep||A||India vs Pakistan||Dubai|
|20 Sep||B||Bangladesh vs Afghanistan||Abu Dhabi|
|21 Sep||Super 4||India vs Bangladesh||Dubai|
|21 Sep||Super 4||Pakistan vs Afghanistan||Abu Dhabi|
|23 Sep||Super 4||India vs Pakistan||Dubai|
|23 Sep||Super 4||Afghanistan vs Bangladesh||Abu Dhabi|
|25 Sep||Super 4||India vs Afghanistan||Dubai|
|26 Sep||Super 4||Pakistan vs Bangladesh||Abu Dhabi|
|28 Sep||Final||Top two teams from Super 4||Dubai|
Group A encounters
India enters the tournament as favorites even with Virat Kohli’s absence. India has a rather easy first match with Hong Kong on September 18 which will warm up the side for its next day match against Pakistan. India have won the ODI format of the tournament five times.
Despite their middle order woes, India is a strong team with a fiery bowling unit of pacers and spinners. Rohit Sharma, one of India’s best ODI batsmen, will look to continue his bolstering run making capabilities. Though India comes to the tournament after a Test series defeat against England, the number two ranked ODI side will look to win the ODI tournament for the sixth time.
Pakistan has won the tournament twice and will have the ‘home’ advantage in UAE. Pakistan will face India for the first time since last year’s Champions Trophy final in England which Pakistan won after securing a massive 180 run victory. Fakhar Zaman and Hasan Ali starred in that game with bat and ball respectively and might feel that confidence kick in when they take on India again on September 19.
In the group A, it is easy to pick the top two teams which will advance to the Super four – India and Pakistan, which means the subcontinent will see two intense matches. Both teams can also feature in the final if they win their respective Super four encounters. India and Pakistan have never faced each other in the tournament’s final.
Group B encounters
Sri Lanka, who has won the tournament five times, will be led by all-rounder Angelo Matthews. They have the advantage of Lasith Malinga’s inclusion in the squad who has three five-wicket hauls in the tournament – the most for any bowler. Though he has been amiss in the side for a long time, he will be ready to redeem his stature as one of Sri Lanka’s lethal bowlers.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will face serious competition from Afghanistan’s star spinners Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and Mohammad Nabi. Afghanistan has slowly risen up the ranks to become a serious contender. They beat Bangladesh 3-0 in a T20I series in India earlier in the year. They also thrashed Ireland 2-1 in the recently concluded ODI series. Afghanistan does have the ability to pull off great upsets and are a team to watch out for.
Bangladesh enters the contest on a high of winning the ODI series 2-1 against West Indies. The Tigers led by Mushrafe Mortaza might lack the services of seasoned Shakib Al Hassan who is suffering from a finger injury. They don’t possess a star-studded batting line-up but can bank on Tamim Iqbal – their best batsman in the format. In Mustafizur Rehman and Mehedi Hassan, they can hope to get some firepower in their bowling line-up.
Looking at the squads, India and Pakistan stand out as favorites for the top prize this year.