India will be looking to extend their winning streak in this year’s Asia Cup to three in a row in tomorrow’s fixture against Bangladesh at Dubai. The Indians last won the Asia Cup eight years ago in 2010 against the hosting team (Sri Lanka), but it’s been Pakistan and Sri Lanka who’ve reigned supreme in the past two tournaments.
With the 2014 Asia Cup Champions not advancing to the super four stage, India are the white-hot favourites to take out this year’s title after demolishing long-time rivals Pakistan in Dubai less than 24 hours ago. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for India though, they escaped a huge upset result against Hong Kong who came out of nowhere in a run chase that had to be seen to be believed. At the end of the day, experience won over adrenaline as the Indians managed to recover from a horrific-start to the innings in the field. At one stage, Hong Kong were 0/174 chasing 286 runs for victory which would have had a few Indian supporters hearts in their mouths. On track for their most memorable win of all time, Hong Kong succumbed to left-arm seamer Khaleel Ahmed and spinner Yuzvendra Chahal who dug India out of what seemed to be a bottomless pit at the time with three wickets each, resulting in a 26-run victory. They’ll be glad that Hong Kong are no longer in the competition for the remainder of this year’s Asia Cup, they could have potentially made India the laughing stock of the cricketing world for the next month or so.
The Hong Kong-scare has quickly been forgotten though, largely due to their rampaging victory over Pakistan just recently. The extremely-economical Bhuvneshwar Kumar was at his very best with the new ball as he strangled both Pakistani opening batsmen Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman who couldn’t resist having a swipe which led to their demise at the crease. Bhuvneshwar dangled the carrot, and Pakistan couldn’t resist! Part-time spinner Kedar Jadhav joined the party and did some serious damage to Pakistan’s middle-lower order in the process claiming 3/23 off nine overs. Pakistan shot themselves in the foot after starting their Asia Cup campaign superbly against Hong Kong, and India took complete advantage of it as they ran away with the match in Dubai. Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan made a fantastic start to his campaign against Hong Kong with an impressive 127 runs which included 15 boundaries and 2 sixes, later backing that up against Pakistan with a solid 46. Ambati Rayudu looks to be in form with the willow after spending some time out of the ODI side, and skipper Rohit Sharma’s 39-ball fifty was a sign of good things to come as well.
India’s only concern at the moment surrounds all-rounder Hardik Pandya who was stretchered off the field after sustaining a back injury in his follow through. If Pandya doesn’t recover in time for tomorrows match against Bangladesh, Khaleel Ahmed could return to the side after picking up figures of 3/48 against Hong Kong in their first match. Highly-rated top order batsman KL Rahul is yet to feature in the tournament, India has instead opted for Dinesh Karthik who’s form in this year’s IPL was enough to give him the nod by selectors. This team has plenty of depth in both areas of the game, making it hard for opposition sides to expose either their batting or bowling. One man who’d be feeling the pinch of playing in this side at the moment is MS Dhoni. Once a hero of Indian cricket, a vast majority of fans & supporters are voicing their opinions about the 37-year-old’s playing future, especially after that tour of England. If that’s all India have to worry about at the moment, they’ve just about got one hand on the 2018 Asia Cup already!