Shaheen Shah Afridi’s searing left-arm darts at Rohit Sharma and Kuldeep Yadav’s guile against Babar Azam could prove crucial
After a hiatus of one year, India vs Pakistan cricket is back.
The two arch-rivals face off in the Asia Cup on Saturday, September 2, in what promises to be a riveting contest between bat and ball.
This is one of Pakistan's best teams yet in the 50-over format. India too have a full-strength squad at their disposal.
The Men In Green have had some practice going into the game in Pallekele, Kandy. They beat Nepal in the tournament opener against Nepal.
Babar Azam seems to have regained his touch whereas pacers like Haris Rauf, Shaheen Afridi and others are firing on all cylinders. For India, the return of Shreyas Iyer and most importantly, Jasprit Bumrah, gives them an edge as they look to start off with a win.
Here are the player match-ups that will be crucial in the context of the match.
Shaheen Shah Afridi Vs Rohit Sharma
The Indian skipper is known to be a fast starter but has a knack of getting into trouble against left-arm pacers. Afridi hasn't dismissed Sharma in ODI cricket, but has troubled the Mumbai batter in the shortest format of the game. In the three meetings (1 ODI, 2 T20Is) between the two players Afridi has managed to dismiss Sharma for a golden duck, catching him plumb right in the first over in the 2021 T20 World Cup in Dubai. In the next meeting, the 2022 T20 World Cup, Sharma thwarted Afridi's pace to some extent. Since the World Cup, Afridi has found great success against right-hand batters. He has got rid of 29 right-handers in 20 innings with 10 dismissals coming with the new ball. Sharma prepared for this game by practicing against left-arm bowlers in the camp in Alur and he will be on his guard against Afridi on Saturday (rain permitting).
Virat Kohli Vs Haris Rauf
These two remember each other very well, don't they? Their last meeting at the MCG turned out to be a memorable one for many reasons. Kohli's two massive sixes off Rauf are still talked about. The Pakistani pacer was himself in awe of the star player and later admitted that no other batter would have played that shot barring Kohli. Rauf will be looking to avenge that defeat from last year as the two teams look to battle it out for the numero uno position at Asia Cup 2023.
Babar Azam Vs Kuldeep Yadav
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam goes into this fixture on the back of a brilliant 151 against Nepal in the opening encounter. Nepal might be minnows, but the century must have helped Azam’s confidence and that would be an asset to Pakistan going into the India clash. With the focus largely being on the Indian pace attack, Kuldeep Yadav could prove to be the 'x-factor' in the tie. The left-arm chinaman bowler poses a different sort of threat, as was seen on the West Indies tour. With the Pallekele pitch assisting the spinners, his duel with Azam could turn out to be fascinating.