Asia’s cricket giants square up ahead of World Cup

COLOMBO: Asia’s cricket giants India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka will have a final opportunity to assess each other before the 50-over World Cup in October, as the Asia Cup commences on Wednesday

Fiery rivals India and Pakistan could clash as many as three times if they go all the way in the six-nation continental championship. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are co-hosts, a hybrid model agreed after World Cup hosts India refused to tour Pakistan, with the final on Sept 17 in Colombo.

Babar Azam’s Pakistan, who became the world’s top-ranked ODI team after last week’s 3-0 series sweep against Afghanistan, open their campaign at home on Wednesday against Asia Cup debutants Nepal in Multan. Azam, who scored 113 runs in the Afghanistan series, leads a side containing a triple-pronged fast bowling attack in Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf.

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World Cup hosts India, led by Rohit Sharma, will open their campaign against Pakistan in a hotly anticipated clash on Saturday in Pallekele. India and Pakistan, who only play against each other in international tournaments due to the countries’ long-standing political tensions, are expected to meet again in the Super Four stage and could face off for a third time in the final.

“It’s not just Pakistan, there are other teams,” Rohit said of the hype surrounding the Pakistan clashes, with the rivals also scheduled to meet in the 50-over World Cup in Ahmedabad on Oct 14. “Sri Lanka won the Asia Cup last year. So there are other teams who are playing good cricket and will challenge us.” INP

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