Pakistan will take on Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup 2022 final at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday. The two teams met in the last Super 4 game at the same venue on Friday and served a sneak peek at the tactics that could shape tonight’s final. Here are the four tactical moves that could have a telling impact on the outcome.
Team batting first has to be aggressive
Much like last year’s T20 World Cup held in the United Arab Emirates, teams chasing in night matches in Dubai in the Asia Cup have had the upper hand, winning six of the eight matches so far. There is a distinct advantage to chasing in the UAE, where dew tends to make the second innings batting easier. In the last match played in Dubai, Pakistan batted first and struggled to break free on a wearing surface that was being used for the second time in as many nights. But Sunday’s final will be on a fresh wicket. The team batting first here must shed the cautious first innings batting.
Pakistan has won one and lost two matches batting first so far, scoring at a runrate 7.3 in the PowerPlay and losing four wickets. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, has preferred chasing and batted first only once in the tournament opener against Afghanistan, which it lost. Sri Lanka’s PowerPlay run rate was 6.83 in that match, and it lost three wickets inside the first six overs. So, how Dasun Shanaka’s men respond to the challenge of batting first, should they be inserted, could be a decisive factor. Since 2021, the average first innings winning total in Dubai has been in excess of 190. Teams batting first would target something in the range of 180-200 to feel comfortable.
Rizwan is the key to unlocking Pakistan’s batting order
The most important player for Pakistan is opener Mohammad Rizwan; he has been his team’s best batter and its highest run-getter so far - 226 runs in five matches. If Rizwan bats deep, he will either match up very favourably with Sri Lankan off-spinnner Maheesh Theeksana, who has usually been held back for the middle-overs and the death, and, or Dhanajaya de Silva. This will be crucial because if Sri Lankans don’t get Rizwan out early, he could hurt them at the death where he is striking at over 180 in this Asia Cup. Against Sri Lanka, in the last Super 4 match, Rizwan was caught in the fourth over, and Pakistan’s innings never quite took off.
Acing the spin duel
Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka will serve a healthy diet of spin bowling in the final. However, both sets of batters have a pretty ordinary average and strike rate against the tweakers in this Asia Cup. Pakistan and Sri Lanka have lost 13 and 16 wickets to spin, respectively, while averaging 26.07 and 21.81. What makes this duel more enticing is the distribution of left-hand - right-hand batters in the top seven of both teams. Charith Asalanka was dropped for the last Super 4 match against Pakistan, but with him in the side, both teams will have three left-handed batters in their top seven, which will prompt both skippers to use the off-break and leg-break options wisely.
Trial by pace
Naseem Shah will return for the final after being rested for the last Super 4 match. Haris Rauf and Naseem share seven wickets between them in the PowerPlay of this Asia Cup while going at less than eight runs an over. Openers Kusal Mendis and Pathum Nissanka have been crucial to Sri Lanka’s quick PowerPlay start in this event. They have gone at a strike rate of 143 and average 41.6 with four fifties so far. Their faceoff with Pakistan’s pace duo could impact the game, especially if Sri Lanka chases again.
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