India vs Pakistan (Part 2): Soft middle order remains a concern for Pakistan

After recording contrasting victories in their previous games, arch rivals India and Pakistan are set to face off for the second time in the Asia Cup on Sunday. While India cruised to a victory against Bangladesh without exerting themselves too much, Pakistan had to rely on late heroics from Shoaib Malik to get the better of a spirited Afghanistan side.

India will be brimming with confidence ahead of the encounter having recorded comfortable victories over Pakistan and Bangladesh after a bit of a scare against Hong Kong, while Pakistan will be hoping for a quick reversal in their form. A comprehensive beating by India in the Group Stages has been followed by a narrow victory over Afghanistan and they really need to improve their game if they want to defeat a well settled Indian team.

The biggest headache for Pakistan will be their middle order which has failed to deliver so far in this tournament. Against India, they collapsed from 85/2 to 121/7 after the partnership between Shoaib Malik and Babar Azam was broken, and against Afghanistan, they made heavy weather of the chase from a very good platform of 154/1.

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Number 5 is clearly a position too high for Sarfaraz but that is where he is likely to come out again as Haris Sohail looks set to be dropped for the return of Shadab. His loss of form hasn’t helped matters either, since his Champions Trophy rescue act against Sri Lanka, Sarfaraz is averaging less than 15 with 1 half century in that time.

Coming after him is the rookie Asif Ali, who showed in Zimbabwe that he can be very destructive, but hasn’t been allowed to get away so far in this tournament. Shoaib Malik, who looks remarkably calm in the middle these days, rescued them against Afghanistan but he will need more support from these two if they have to win on Sunday.

With India set to unleash 3 world class spinners in the middle overs, how the Pakistani batsmen negotiate them can prove to be the difference in the end. Jadeja has slotted in nicely to fill the gap left due to Hardik Pandya’s injury and will keep his place alongside Chahal and Kuldeep. Sarfaraz and Malik are both excellent players of spin and Pakistan will need them to bring their A game to negotiate the different challenges thrown by the Indian spinners.

With the added incentive of virtually booking a spot in the final with a win, this game is expected to have a little more intensity than the game on Wednesday and hopefully, we will get to see one of those thrilling India-Pakistan clashes we all crave for.

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