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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Asia Cup: Imam-ul-Haq says Pakistan must look to fire out India's top order 'in the first 10 overs'

Pakistan batsman says taking the wickets of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are key if Pakistan are to win Super Four match in Dubai

Pakistan batsman Imam-ul-Haq leaves the field after being dismissed by India during an Asia Cup group game at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. AFP
Pakistan batsman Imam-ul-Haq leaves the field after being dismissed by India during an Asia Cup group game at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. AFP

Pakistan’s fast-bowlers have to fire out India’s in-form openers early if their side are to succeed in the Asia Cup Super Four meeting at Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.

That is the view of Imam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan opener, who says his side’s morale has been lifted by their thrilling last-over win against Afghanistan last time out.

Pakistan made a victorious start to the last-four phase of the competition in Abu Dhabi on Friday night, when Shoaib Malik guided them to a three-wicket success at a raucous Zayed Cricket Stadium.

The tension got the better of three players, with each of Rashid Khan and Asghar Afghan, from Afghanistan, and Pakistan bowler Hasan Ali being fined by the ICC for separate disciplinary incidents.

At the same time, defending champions India were maintaining their relentless form as they easily dispatched Bangladesh in front of 25,000 in Dubai.

Two days earlier, India had been similarly dismissive of their old rivals in a group game in which Pakistan’s top-order conspicuously failed.

India’s opening batting, by contrast, has been as good as flawless throughout the tournament so far.

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Shikhar Dhawan is the competition’s top run-scorer, with 213, while Rohit Sharma, is fourth in that list and was immaculate in the seven-wicket win over Bangladesh.

“We have got the momentum on our side after [the win against Afghanistan] and are looking forward to the India game,” said Imam, who made a fine 80 against the Afghans after failing against India.

“India has a strong batting line-up, but their strength appears to be their openers. If we allow them to settle down at the crease they can go on to make big scores.

“We need to get them out in the first 10 overs and then we can put some pressure into their batting.”

Unlike the opening – and ultimately inconsequential – game between the two sides last week, Sunday’s match is unlikely to be a sell-out. A little over a quarter of tickets were still available on Friday afternoon.

If Pakistan are to bounce back from the first loss to India, they will need to improve their fielding, according to Imam, after they dropped five catches against Afghanistan.

“It’s not only against India but we must be able to take wickets against every team to put us in a winning position,” he said.

“I think our bowlers bowled well against Afghanistan. They had reduced them to less than three and-a-half runs per over at one point, but we let them off by dropping a few catches at crucial times of the game.”

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For India’s part, they arguably have even stronger personnel to call on that they did first time around against Pakistan.

Back then, they were denied the services of Hardik Pandya, after he broke down with a back injury during the fifth over he bowled.

The injury ruled him out of the tournament, providing an opportunity instead for Ravindra Jadeja, who was summoned from a domestic game in India to join the squad in the UAE.

He thrived on his return to the one-day international side for the first time in over a year, taking four wickets against Bangladesh, and he is in buoyant mood ahead of the Pakistan game.

“I was playing Vijay Hazare Trophy the day before, and I got a call from the selector saying I might be needed in Dubai,” Jadeja said. “It was very good news, I was very happy.”

India and Pakistan meet at 3.30pm in Dubai, while Bangladesh and Afghanistan will each try to revive their hopes of a place in Friday’s final when they are reacquainted in the capital.