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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Cricket: Asia Cup-2018 Begins, Bangladesh Crush Sri Lanka in Inaugural Match!

The 14th edition of Asia Cup of One Day Internationals (ODI) between cricket playing nations of Asia began tonight, the 15th of September, 2018 in United Arab Emirates. UAE hosts this tournament for the third time due to well-known reasons. In the inaugural match played at the Dubai International stadium Bangladesh crushed Sri Lanka by 137 runs. Bangladesh, batting first, innings was built mainly on a superlative 144 runs by Musfiqur Rahim who was the last man out setting a competitive target of 261 runs. Sri Lanka began very shakily and kept on losing wickets at regular intervals including a  run-out, the whole team finally getting bowled out for a mere 124 . With its string of successes in last two years Bangladesh has become the team to watch out for in this two-week tournament. It was nice to see Lasith Malinga back in the Sri Lanka team and also among wickets again.

Asia Cup this year has six teams with Hong Kong joining the five full ODI members—India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The tournament, normally played in the round robin format, this time is having two groups and a Super Four. Group A consists of India, Pakistan and Hong Kong while Group B has Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Winners and runners-up teams of each group will go to the Super Four stage on the basis of points at the group stage and in Super Four all four nations will play each other with the top two teams qualifying for the Final. There will be two venues—Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Omission of Sharjah is perplexing which is also pointed out by Sunil Gavaskar.

After a long while cricket lovers are set to enjoy encounters between the eternal archrivals India and Pakistan. This rivalry becomes far more interesting with the former ace pacer Imran Khan becoming the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The two nations are set to meet on 19th September in Dubai for the group match. Supposing both teams proceed to the Super Four stage which is the most likely scenario they will meet for the second time sometime after 20th September. If both teams turn out to be the top two teams in Super Four they will meet for the third time in the Final on 28th September. Cricket lovers will really relish that possibility. Of course, as we have pointed out earlier, Bangladesh would be a tough team to overcome and Sri Lanka could come roaring back any time.  

India has a new captain Rohit Sharma for the tournament as Virat Kohli was rested after the Test disaster against England. India, the defending champions, has been consistently proving its dominance in the shorter format and the absence of Kohli is not likely to impact team performance adversely. Of course, performance of MS Dhoni is going to be a crucial factor with wicket keeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik also featuring in the team. Selection blues in Team India visibly affected team performance in the England tour, and therefore team management has to be very careful about the final eleven in each match with a lot of options available. The omission of Rishav Pant seems illogical, because he went from the IPL straight to the Tests.

With more teams, interesting format and the extravaganza spreading over two weeks Asia Cup-2018 promises to be absorbing and exciting.

All details about the tournament:
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