After a last-over defeat against Pakistan in their first match of the Super Four stage at the 2022 Asia Cup, Rohit Sharma-led India will face an upbeat Sri Lankan team in a crucial tie at the Dubai International Stadium on Tuesday.
India, the defending champions in the tournament, had emerged from the group stage unbeaten after victories against Pakistan and Hong Kong. But on Sunday, Babar Azam and Co got one back at their rivals with an impressive performance.
Riding on keeper-opener Mohammad Rizwan’s heroics with the bat and Mohammad Nawaz’s all-round contribution, which earned him the player of the match award, Pakistan defeated India by five wickets with one ball to spare.
The result leaves India in a precarious position. They have two games remaining in the Super Four stage and could qualify for the final, with net run-rate coming into play, even if they win one of those games. But they would want to keep things in their control by getting the wins against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan... which seem anything but a given right now.
Despite the defeat against Pakistan, there were some positives to take for India in terms of their batting.
One of the big talking points ahead of the game was the lack of opening partnerships, but Rohit and KL Rahul turned things around by providing their team a blazing 54-run stand at the top of the order. The skipper struck the ball wonderfully and his team will expect a bigger score from him soon, while Rahul’s intent at the crease was much-improved and his 20-ball 28 would’ve given him the confidence he needed in what is his comeback series.
Virat Kohli’s knock was, of course, the highlight. The former captain paced his innings masterfully and held the Indian innings together with a 44-ball 60. A confident and in-form Kohli is a major asset for India as they build towards the T20 World Cup.
The right-hander spoke about the space the team is in currently.
“I would give the credit to the captain and the team management that they have made an atmosphere where everyone still wants to get another opportunity,” said Kohli. “The team atmosphere is good... you will mistakes, you accept them and address them and then look forward to being in that pressure situation again.”
In the bowling department, though, India definitely felt the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel as Pakistan put on their chase. Senior bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal and Hardik Pandya all had off days with the ball, even as young Ravi Bishnoi and Arshdeep Singh delivered impressive spells.
With Sri Lanka having three left-handers in their top six, R Ashwin could get a game as a specialist off-spinner. Ravindra Jadeja’s absence means Rishabh Pant – the only other left-hander in the squad – will probably continue to get the nod ahead of Dinesh Karthik. Deepak Hooda also edged out Karthik for the Pakistan game, perhaps for his ability to bowl off spin, but didn’t get to bowl. If India play Ashwin against Sri Lanka, Karthik could be back in the side in place of Hooda. Ashwin’s inclusion could be a straight swap with Chahal or Bishnoi, a move that would lend batting depth as well.
Dasun Shanaka-led Sri Lanka will come into Tuesday’s match with confidence after consecutive wins over the past week. Having started their campaign with a loss to Afghanistan, they first edged out Bangladesh in what was a knockout match in the group stage, before putting on a solid chase against Afghanistan in the Super Fours opener.
None of the Sri Lanka players are among the top performers in the tournament at the moment but the likes of Kusal Mendis, Wanindu Hasaranga and Bhanuka Rajapaksa have found form and there is surely enough firepower in their ranks to test the best.
“It’s the belief of the dressing room. As a team we believe we can chase anything on these kind of wickets. When chasing, we have a clear idea of how the wicket behaves,” Shanaka had said after the win against Afghanistan.
While the attention has been on India-Pakistan matches at this tournament, Sri Lanka have gone about their business since a chastening loss in the opener against Afghanistan. Shanaka said his team has shut out the noise to focus on their own game.
“When it comes to Asian cricket games it’s majorly India-Pakistan games everyone talks about, but we’ve got a very good team, which can win,” said Shanaka.
“So I don’t mind about the big talks, but rather concentrate on the way we are playing.”
The way Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have stepped up in this tournament, India must bounce back quickly from their Sunday heartbreak to keep their hopes of final on track.
India: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Deepak Hooda, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravi Bishnoi, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Avesh Khan, Axar Patel, Ashwin Ravichandran.
Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (c), Danushka Gunathilaka, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Ashen Bandara, Dhananjaya de Silva, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Praveen Jayawickrama, Chamika Karunaratne, Dilshan Madushanka, Matheesha Pathirana, Nuwanidu Fernando and Dinesh Chandimal.
The match will begin at 7.30 IST on Tuesday, September 6, and will be telecast on the Disney+Hotstar app and the Star Sports network in India.