Asia Cup 2023 braces for epic Pakistan-India encounter today

LAHORE - The Asia Cup 2023’s royal battle be­tween arch-rivals Pakistan and India is set to ignite the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium today (Saturday). The clash of titans is poised to be a historic showdown that will be etched in cricket­ing annals for years to come. 

Both the teams are primed to unleash their finest talents in pursuit of glory. The electrifying atmosphere surround­ing this match extends far beyond the boundaries of the cricket field, as it car­ries the weight of history, pride, and the insatiable thirst for victory that charac­terizes this fierce rivalry. 

In last year’s T20 World Cup, the relentless Shaheen Afridi repeatedly troubled the Indian batting order. The anticipated rematch between these two forces promises to be a tantalizing con­test, adding an extra layer of intrigue to an already monumental clash. 

For Pakistan, the spotlight is on their captain, Babar Azam, who is in scintillat­ing form, following his sensational 151 against Nepal in the tournament opener. However, concerns loom over Fakhar Za­man’s lean run of form since his remark­able three successive centuries, including an unbeaten 180 against New Zealand. Yet, both Pakistan and India are acutely aware of Fakhar’s destructive capabilities. Fur­thermore, Pakistan boast a formidable bat­ting lineup, a strength that India may envy. 

The Asia Cup was set to mark the re­turn of Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul, with Iyer declared fit. However, Rahul is still striving for full fitness, paving the way for Ishan Kishan to make his mark. Kis­han’s recent string of three consecutive half-centuries in the West Indies is im­pressive, but with Rohit Sharma’s return, Kishan may need to adapt to a new role. India’s key player, Jasprit Bumrah, made a triumphant comeback during the Ire­land T20Is, expressing readiness to bowl ten overs, a positive sign for the team. 

As the match unfolds on a fresh pitch, reminiscent of the one in the Sri Lanka- Bangladesh encounter with assistance for both seamers and spinners, batsmen will face a daunting challenge. Addition­ally, the forecast of rain from early morn­ing till mid-afternoon could potentially delay the start, adding yet another layer of uncertainty to this high-stakes clash. 

In their storied history in the Asia Cup, Pakistan and India have squared off 13 times. Pakistan have secured vic­tory in 5 of those encounters, while India haveemerged victorious in 7 matches, with one ending in a no-result. 

Both teams have expressed their de­termination and respect for their oppo­nents. Shaheen Shah, speaking on behalf of Pakistan, said, “Pakistan will win the Asia Cup, we have prepared very well. We always do our best to make the country proud and happy.” Meanwhile, India’s Rohit Sharma acknowledged Pakistan’s prowess, saying, “No team becomes No. 1 just like that. Pakistan has worked hard a lot to get there; they look like a unit. It will be a good challenge to play against them.” 

PAKISTAN SQUAD: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam (c), Moham­mad Rizwan (wk), Salman Agha, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan (vc), Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah. 

INDIA SQUAD (FROM): Ishan Kishan, Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Suryakumar Ya­dav, Tilak Varma, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Mohammed Shami.

Azhar Khan is an accomplished senior sports journalist with extensive experience in the field. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @azharmasood786

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