Babar Azam says Pakistan have the edge over India in Asia Cup clash

Super Four match in Colombo on Sunday will have a reserve day due to threat of rain

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Pakistan captain Babar Azam says his team hold the upper hand heading into the Asia Cup match against arch rivals India in Colombo on Sunday.

Azam and his side opened the Super Four stage of the tournament with a comprehensive win over Bangladesh in Lahore and will back their chances against India at the R Premadasa Stadium.

The South Asian neighbours earlier met in the group stage but the match in Kandy was washed out in the second innings after India recovered from early strikes by Pakistan's quicks to score 266.

Pakistan's quicks continued their good form with Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf all among the wickets. That, and the fact Pakistan have been playing in Sri Lanka for around two months, fills Azam with confidence.

"In a way, we have an edge [over India] because we have played back-to back-cricket, here and in Pakistan. We have been in Sri Lanka for two months. We played the Test series, Afghanistan series, LPL [Lanka Premier League] and now the Asia Cup," the top order batsman said on the eve of the match.

With so much cricket and travel, owing to the strange schedule of the tournament that saw Pakistan go back and forth between home and Sri Lanka due to India's reluctance to play their matches in Pakistan, player fatigue is an issue. However the captain said they have been well taken care of.

"We have been playing continuously. So apart from training, we need to look after players as there are back-to-back games and travel. We knew this was going to happen, so we have looked after players accordingly," he said.

What has helped keep the morale of Pakistan up is their pace attack, which has blossomed into the most devastating in white-ball cricket. Shah in particular is proving to be almost unplayable with the new and old ball. Azam said it was a privilege to have such high quality frontline quicks, and dependable all-rounders like Faheem Ashraf and Mohammad Wasim Jr.

"Very proud of the fast bowlers I have. Big tournaments are always won by fast bowlers. We have the best lot, including Wasim and Faheem. They have full belief. They stand together, they back each other. If a bowler is having an off day, the others cover for him," he added.

However, beyond their three main quicks, Pakistan have an issue in the middle overs as their spinners have not quite made an impact. Both India and Bangladesh middle-order batsmen succeeded in rebuilding the innings after losing early wickets. Azam admitted it is an issue and he hopes to resolve it soon.

"We have been trying a few combinations [in middle overs bowling]. We have not been getting that but we have been finishing well. Out fast bowlers have bowled very well at the start and in the death overs."

Meanwhile, India opener Shubman Gill said his team are trying their best to prepare for Pakistan's pace attack. But he also pointed out that India posted a competitive total in the first game despite losing early wickets.

"We all know that their bowling attack is quite good and when you don't play against such attacks often it makes a bit of difference in main tournaments," said Gill.

"Openers need to make a good start and need to dominate them from the beginning. In the league match, our top order did not click much, still we made a competitive total. So, it was a good sign."

Weather update

The weather forecast is not good for Sunday with Colombo expected to receive significant rain throughout the evening. Given the forecast, organisers had attempted to move the rest of the tournament out of Sri Lanka's capital and to a drier part of the country - Hambantota. But that plan fell through and the Asia Cup will now be completed in Colombo.

However, organisers have provided a reserve day just for the India-Pakistan game to ensure a result. The match will be continued on Monday if Sunday experiences a washout.

Updated: September 09, 2023, 1:18 PM