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Curtain on Asia Cup cricket raises today
The curtain on the 14th edition of the Asia Cup rises today with confident-looking Bangladesh facing Sri Lanka in the opening match at Dubai International Stadium in United Arab Emirates.
The match is scheduled to start at 5:30pm and will be televised live on GTV and Maasranga TV.
The tournament has returned to its original format of 50 overs after the previous edition in 2016, hosted by Bangladesh, held in Twenty20 format.
The 50-over format has been quite a favourite format of the Tigers, where they are currently ranked seventh ahead of their Group B rivals Sri Lanka and Afghanistan and had an impressive record in the recent past.
Bangladesh’s confidence further boosted with their recent limited-over series triumphs in the Caribbean soil as they beat the hosts West Indies in both ODI and Twenty20I series.
With the current forms and experiences of the senior players like – Tamim Iqbal, Sakib al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah and skipper Mashrafee bin Murtaza, Bangladesh could hope to get their best possible result in the tournament after being defeated twice in the finals in last three editions.
However, their journey in the tournament should not be a smooth one as they were drawn in a tough group along with two familiar opponents – Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, whom they have faced several times in last few months.
Both the teams came with some confidence boosting results in recent past as Sri Lanka defeated South Africa in their last three international meetings while Afghanistan also lifted their morale by beating Ireland 2-1 in a three-match ODI series in Belfast.
The hot and humid unfamiliar conditions in UAE will also be a challenging
task for the Tigers, who played their last match in UAE in 1995.
Sri Lanka suffered some vital blows before the tournament got underway as their key batsman Dinesh Chandimal was ruled out after injuring a finger during a domestic Twenty20 match.
Their injury problem got aggravated when opening batsman Danushka Gunathilaka suffered a back injury and was ruled out from the Asia Cup while off-spinner Akila Dananjaya was likely to miss the first two matches due to the birth of his child.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella and left-handed batsman Shehan Jayasuriya were called as replacements for Chandimal and Gunathilaka.
The injury worries of some of the key players gave Bangladesh slight edge before both the sides will be looking to start their campaigns on a winning note.
Afghanistan, the third team in the Group B, have proved themselves as a consistent performer over the last few years and they would be eyeing to progress to the Super Four stage at the expense of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
In Group A, India, the six-time champions of the regional competition, will miss their regular skipper Virat Kohli in the tournament as he has been given rest after the end of their recent England series.
Rohit Sharma would lead the reigning champions in the absence of Kohli with the side, which last played in UAE 12 years ago, retaining most other key players like MS Dhoni, Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, and Hardik Pandya.
Pakistan will be clearly ahead among all these teams in the tournament as they will be playing in familiar country which is considered as their home away from home.
Hong Kong, the other team in Group A, have come through in the tournament after becoming champions in the qualifying event this month, in Malaysia.