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Match Preview – India vs Pakistan, ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021/22, 16th Match, Group 2

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Pakistan will have to overcome an opposition with better personnel, and with their own prep having been hit

Big Picture

You could go with Albert Einstein reminding you madness is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. You could try a variant of Richard Feynman’s famous quote about quantum theory and apply it to Pakistan cricket: if you think you understand it, you probably don’t. But it doesn’t take a genius of any sort to figure out that at present, India’s dominant record over Pakistan stems no longer from voodoo, superstition, jinxes, or even spooky quantum mechanical equations. When Virat Kohli‘s men walk out against Babar Azam‘s on Sunday, they’re heavily fancied to maintain their perfect World Cup record because of the rather boring, plain fact that they possess the better players.

It’s worth acknowledging the elephant in the room: a Pakistan win tomorrow would be good for cricket. The longer India’s streak continues, the weaker this fixture’s claim to being an elite, top-tier contest becomes. An India-Pakistan contest that no longer commands the same prestige cannot be good for a sport that desperately needs this rivalry to deliver every chance it gets because – to acknowledge the second elephant in this rather overcrowded room – these games don’t come around as often as they should. The reasons for that are not cricketing, but it’s the sport that bears the brunt of it.

Worryingly, games between these sides at ICC tournament level of late haven’t produced engaging, high-quality cricket for the best part of the last decade. The contest has owed its jeopardy for the most part to the historical rivalry between the Indian and Pakistan camps – on and off the field – rather than to finely poised matches between two evenly matched sides. Since the 2011 ODI World Cup semifinal, five World Cup games between these two sides have all produced comprehensive Indian wins, by eight wickets, seven wickets, 76 runs, six wickets and 89 runs respectively. India pulled ahead early in all those games, and stayed there until Pakistan were eventually ground out.

For India, there seems to be little to worry about. Their two warm-up games against England and Australia tells the story of a side in complete control of their preparations, settled despite the various combinations and personnel they can choose to deploy on any given day. The second half of IPL 2021 concluded last week in the UAE; India could scarcely have enjoyed a better lead-up to the tournament. Their T20 record against Pakistan reads seven wins in eight games. On paper, there’s little to worry them, and for all of the drama and theatre of an India-Pakistan fixture, no World Cup game has ever been quite as predictable as this.

If all of that seems confronting for Pakistan, that’s because it is. That Pakistan go into their opener such heavy underdogs isn’t captain Babar’s fault, but it is his problem to try and solve. Pakistan, too, have had recent practice in the UAE; the second half of the Pakistan Super League took place there in June. But while the Indian squad was taking part in the IPL, Pakistan were watching their preparation plans go up in smoke as New Zealand and England pulled out of tours last-minute. A National T20 Cup pushed forward to give the World Cup squad some competitive practice will have helped, even if it isn’t quite the same thing.
India’s only problem, if you can call it that, may revolve around how to fit the hugely talented Ishan Kishan into a top four that will likely comprise of KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav. Pakistan, meanwhile, are more of less settled with their line-up, in the way someone who can’t afford a luxury car doesn’t have to worry about which might be the best one to buy. The only conundrum for Pakistan seems to be how to fit Haider Ali into a middle order currently occupied by Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, two players who have over the past proven famously difficult to dislodge from the side.

Form guide

India: LLWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Pakistan: WLLWW

In the spotlight

KL Rahul has mastered the art of getting runs in T20 cricket, but over the past couple of years, the question that has dogged him is whether he has been getting them at the optimum pace. Rahul said at the end of IPL 2021 that he didn’t always bat “the way he wanted to” with Punjab Kings because the team dynamics dictated something else. He ended IPL 2021 with a breaking-the-shackles 98* off 42, and in the warm-ups, he’s hit 51 off 24 and 39 off 31. Will India’s greater depth free Rahul up to be a no-inhibitions T20 batter? It’ll be interesting to see.

Pakistan don’t so much have a template for triumph so much as a hope that Fakhar Zaman can hit the heights he did four years ago in a high-stakes game against India. And while India wised after that Champions Trophy final in the way they bowled to him, the left-hander has started to hit form at just the right time. He was Pakistan’s best player in the warm-ups against West Indies and South Africa, smashing 98 in 52 balls without once being dismissed. Batting one drop rather than opener might free him off the pressure of getting his team off to a flyer. With Babar and Mohammad Rizwan masters at setting an innings up, Fakhar has the license to free his arms.

Team news

There isn’t much between R Ashwin and Varun Chakravarthy for the main spinner’s role. The KKR man is perhaps a slight favourite to get the nod based on recent form. Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Mohammed Shami for a fast-bowling berth is also perhaps a toss-up. Neither were brilliant in the warm-ups, though Shami didn’t bowl in the second, so Bhuvneshwar may just edge it.

India (probable): 1 KL Rahul 2 Rohit Sharma 3 Virat Kohli (capt) 4 Suryakumar Yadav 5 Rishabh Pant (wk) 6 Hardik Pandya 7 Ravindra Jadeja 8 Shardul Thakur 9 Varun Chakravarthy/R Ashwin 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Mohammed Shami 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Pakistan have named a 12-man squad already. One of Haider Ali or Mohammad Hafeez are likely to miss out.

Pakistan (probable): 1 Babar Azam (capt) 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk) 3 Fakhar Zaman 4 Mohammad Hafeez/Haider Ali 5 Shoaib Malik 6 Asif Ali 7 Shadab Khan 8 Imad Wasim 9 Hasan Ali 10 Haris Rauf 11 Shaheen Shah Afridi

Pitch and conditions

The first round of the T20 World Cup saw the UAE fixtures take place in Abu Dhabi, but the pitch in Dubai is expected to favour the slower bowlers. Even the quicks are likely best served by varying their pace and bowling more cutters than express pace, with lower scores likely to be competitive.

Stats and trivia

  • India’s current streak of five successive T20 World Cup wins over Pakistan is the joint longest in the competition, along with West Indies over England and Pakistan over Bangladesh.
  • In the last three years, no one has scored more T20I runs than Babar’s 1173. Kohli is second on the list, with 993.
  • Since 2018, Indian have lost all eight T20Is where they posted a first-innings total lower than 160, but only lost 2 of 11 when they set a target between 161 and 180.
  • Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000



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    Under-19 World Cup – BCCI sends five reserve players to bolster Covid-hit Indian squad in the Caribbean

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    Uday Saharan, Rishith Reddy, Ansh Gosai, Abishek Porel and Pushpendra Singh Rathore called up

    The BCCI is sending five players to the Under-19 World Cup in the West indies as back-up following a Covid-19 outbreak in the Indian camp, with five players of the original squad in the Caribbean testing positive for the virus this week.

    While Saharan, Reddy, Gosai and Rathore were all part of the travelling reserves announced by the BCCI before the World Cup, they did not travel to the Caribbean with the main squad. Porel, who was initially not part of the reserves, has made the cut in the place of Amrit Raj Upadhyay.

    Left-arm spinner Upadhyay was originally picked among the reserves, but has been pipped by Porel, and the reason, ESPNcricinfo understands, is that he is a wicketkeeper. Aaradhya, the second keeper in the main squad, is currently in isolation, leaving the squad with only Dinesh Bana to wear the big gloves.

    Saharan is a batter from Rajasthan, who hit 102 in the tri-series competition played between two India Under-19 sides and Bangladesh Under-19 late last year. Reddy is a right-arm seamer from Hyderabad who picked up 5 for 53 against Bangladesh Under-19s in the same tournament. Saurashtra’s Gosai is a right-handed batter known for his innovative shot-making, and Rajasthan’s Rathore is a batting allrounder.

    Once the five reserves reach the Caribbean, they will have to serve a mandatory quarantine period before joining the team. They are currently not part of the main squad; the tournament’s event technical committee will have to approve them before they can play in the competition.

    It’s possible that the committee will allow them only as temporary Covid-19 replacements, which comes with the caveat that they must exit the squad once the affected players return after recovery. If the BCCI so wants, these players can apply to be permanent additions to the squad, but that is usually done to replace injured players.

    Although the five Covid-infected players are currently in isolation, they are expected to be available for India’s quarter-final game, which likely be played on January 29. However, if their recovery takes longer or more players return positive tests or suffer injuries, the team management can dip into their reserves at short notice.

    India, who became the first team in the competition to qualify for the quarter-finals, have their knockout fixture scheduled in another country, Antigua and Barbuda. This means the players who are currently in Trinidad and Tobago will have to return negative tests before they can fly out.

    Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx



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    Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs Zimbabwe 3rd ODI 2021/22

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    Vandersay picks up 4 for 10 in 7.4 overs as hosts bowlers run rampant

    Sri Lanka 254 for 9 (Nissanka 55, Asalanka 52, Ngarava 2-46) beat Zimbabwe 70 (Kaitano 19, Vandersay 4-10) by 184 runs

    Sri Lanka’s bowlers ran rampant in the early overs of Zimbabwe’s chase reducing the opposition to 20 for 3, then 31 for 5, and eventually 70 all out, decimating their hopes of chasing down 255 and claiming a series victory.

    Dushmantha Chameera blasted out the first two wickets, before the spinners claimed the limelight – Maheesh Theekshana squeezing one between Sean Williams’ bat and pad, Jeffrey Vandersay taking four of his own, before Ramesh Mendis also took two. Somewhere in that cascade of wickets, seamer Chamika Karunaratne struck too, to remove the dangerous Sikandar Raza.

    After 15 overs, Zimbabwe were 37 for 5, the required rate had crept above six, and the chase was essentially buried. Ryan Burl and Tendai Chatara fought briefly to put up 18 for the ninth wicket – the best stand of the innings. But it was all over by the 25th over, with Vandersay scything through the lower order.

    The collapse was particularly disappointing for Zimbabwe, because their attack had operated with such discipline to keep Sri Lanka to a manageable total. Where Zimbabwe’s own batters had put up totals in the 300 range batting first in the two previous matches, Sri Lanka lurched only to 254 for 9, with each of their top eight getting to double-figures, but only Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka managing half-centuries.
    Zimbabwe’s had been a collective bowling effort. Richard Ngarava claimed 2 for 46 from his nine overs while Chatara, Blessing Muzarabani, Wellington Masakadza, Ryan Burl, and Sean Williams all claimed one wicket apiece. Aside from an 80-run opening stand between Nissanka and Kusal Mendis, Zimbabwe never let another pair prosper for long, the next-best partnership coming much later in the innings, when Karunaratne and Ramesh Mendis put on 48 together.

    It was Chameera who precipitated Zimbabwe’s rapid downfall, in the third over. He bowled a shortish ball outside off stump to right-hander Regis Chakabva, who edged it to slip. Then, next ball, he angled one across captain Ervine, who nicked it to the keeper. When Theekshana sent a straighter one through Williams’ defences in the eighth over, Zimbabwe had lost their three best top-order batters in the series.

    After the first powerplay, Kaitano was given out stumped off the bowling of Vandersay, although the evidence that his back foot was in the air when keeper Kusal Mendis took the bails off did not seem totally conclusive. Next over, Raza spooned a catch to cover, and all of Zimbabwe’s serious batting hopes had departed.

    Vandersay then took three of the five remaining wickets, and Ramesh Mendis claimed the other two. There was no substantial turn in the pitch – Sri Lanka were menacing, but not unplayable. Zimbabwe will feel they let themselves down.

    In the first innings, Sri Lanka had begun steadily with the bat – Nissanka and Kusal Mendis hitting only five boundaries in the powerplay, as they strode to 43 for 0 in ten overs. As has been the case right through the series, Zimbabwe’s quicks were disciplined and sharp, though they didn’t find the early wickets they had managed in the first two games.

    Perhaps sensing that he needed to raise the tempo if Sri Lanka were to near the 300 mark, Kusal Mendis was the first to depart, lofting the left-arm spin of Masakadza to long off. He was out for 36 off 51 balls. Nissanka brought up his second successive half-century of the series with a four through backward point, but was run out not long after that, thanks to an excellent direct hit from Zimbabwe’s substitute fielder.

    Asalanka struck a four through third man first ball, and provided Sri Lanka’s main thrust of the middle overs even as wickets fell around him. He was strong square of the wicket as usual, and hit five fours in his 56-ball 52. It was his second fifty of the series.

    Sri Lanka’s 2-1 victory pushes them up to fourth in the ODI Super League table, though they have played 18 out of their 24 games, and all other sides aside from Ireland (also 18) have played fewer. Zimbabwe are down at No. 11, on 35 points after 12 games. Only teams finishing in the top eight, effectively, gain direct qualification to next year’s ODI World Cup.

    Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf



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    Two West Indies players sidelined with Covid-19 at Under-19 World Cup 2022

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    Onaje Amory and Jaden Carmichael are out. Kevin Wickham and Nathan Edwards are in

    Two players from the West Indies squad, Onaje Amory and Jaden Carmichael, have tested Covid positive at the U-19 World Cup. The tournament’s Event Technical Committee has allowed temporary replacements Kevin Wickham and Nathan Edwards for the two players who will now serve an isolation period.
    The announcement from ICC came just hours before a match that West Indies must win match to make to the quarter-finals. Offspinner Amory is the only West Indies bowler to complete all ten overs in the two games they have played so far, taking three wickets with an economy rate of 3.75. Carmichael has not yet played a game.

    There are provisions at the Under-19 World Cup for fixtures to either be postponed or relocated in case of a Covid-19 outbreak. But, with West Indies having adequate replacements on hand, there was no need to take any extreme measures. Wickham and Edwards were immediately brought into XI to play against Sri Lanka on Friday but their time with the team is temporary. They will be removed from the squad as soon as the infected players are able to return.

    West Indies are the third team to be affected by Covid-19 at this tournament. Four players from Zimbabwe tested positive in early January, and at least five India players returned positive tests too.

    So far, West Indies have a 1-1 win-loss record at the Under-19 World Cup. They lost their opening fixture against Australia by six wickets before beating Scotland by seven wickets. If they beat Sri Lanka on Friday, they will set up a quarter-final clash against Pakistan, Zimbabwe or Afghanistan.



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