A mouth-watering clash is on the cards as arch-rivals India and Pakistan lock horns in the Super 12 stage of the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup at the iconic MCG in Melbourne this afternoon.
The game is scheduled to get underway at 1.30pm Sri Lanka time.
There is a lot at stake for both sides as they meet in their first game of the tournament. Considering the recent results against their neighbours, the No.1 ranked team in the Men’s T20I team rankings, India, will be up against it at the MCG this afternoon.
India lost by 10 wickets to Pakistan in their group stage encounter in the T20 World Cup last year and that played a big part in knocking them out of the tournament early.
They met again in the Asia Cup a month back, not once but twice. Even though Rohit Sharma and his men won the first encounter, Pakistan squared things off in the second meeting. Both matches, however, went right down to the wire and lived up to the expectations of an India-Pakistan clash.
India have been in good form after their Asia Cup exit. They won the home series against Australia and South Africa, riding on the success of their batting line-up. But death bowling emerged as a major concern for them once Jasprit Bumrah got ruled out with a back injury. There was some improvement visible in the warm-up match against Australia, though.
It has also been tough to find the right team balance in Ravindra Jadeja’s absence but Axar Patel has solved that problem to some extent in recent games, at least with his bowling. Otherwise, the batting line-up looks pretty much settled for India but the absence of enough left-handed batters could be exploited by Pakistan.
Pakistan, on the other hand, are coming into this encounter with confidence on their side. They won a tri-series featuring New Zealand and Bangladesh recently and that served as good preparation for this mega event. Babar Azam and his men were also one of the semi-finalists in the last edition of the World Cup and they would want to go all the way this time.
The bowlers and the top order are firing on all cylinders for Pakistan. There was brief uncertainty around their ace pacer Shaheen Afridi’s participation in the tournament but he is fully fit and firing as the warm-up match against Afghanistan showed.
The only concern for Pakistan, however, is their misfiring middle order. The likes of Fakhar Zaman, Khushdil Shah, Shan Masood and Iftikhar Ahmed haven’t been in good form of late and they become highly unreliable whenever both Babar and Mohammad Rizwan fail to deliver. So, they need to step up to reduce Pakistan’s over-dependency on Babar and Rizwan.
Fakhar Zaman is unavailable for this match as confirmed by Babar ahead of this fixture. “Shan Masood is fit. He is ready for the match tomorrow. Fakhar is not fully recovered. He will take 1 or 2 matches to recover,” Babar revealed.
Predicted Playing XIs
Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Harshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami
Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Shan Masood, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Asif Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Shaheen Afridi