India have won three matches comprehensively in the Asia Cup after bowling first. They struggled to defeat minnows Hong Kong in their opening match of the Asia Cup after posting 285. And against Afghanistan, they seemed to be coasting towards victory, and were well placed at 110-0 chasing 253, before stumbling to earn a tie.
India have come close to losing just once in the tournament – the first game against Hong Kong where the Associate team were 174 for no loss after 34 overs in the second innings. India have been content bowling first and chasing the target under lights.
But for the final, where they face Bangladesh on Friday in Dubai, India should look to bat first. Here’s why.
India had a world-class bowling line-up at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. They stormed into the final thanks to a solid batting line-up and top bowling that had Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh. In the final, Sourav Ganguly won the toss and decided to bowl first against a mighty Australian side on what looked like a damp surface. Zaheer’s first over went for 15 runs and with it India’s hopes.
In the 2011 World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka, the islanders won the toss and decided to bat first. They posted 274-6 and had India struggling at 31-2 in the chase before Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni hits sparkling 90s in a stupendous chase.
In the 2013 Champions final, England decided to field first after the match turned into a 20-over affair with India winning by five runs. India had won the 2007 World T20 final against Pakistan by five runs as well.
In the 2017 Champions Trophy, India decided to field first on a flat Oval surface in England. Fakhar Zaman smashed a century and Pakistan won by 180 runs. So in all recent major finals involving India, batting first has worked on all but one occasion. And the reason for it is that in really big matches, it is advisable to bat first and put the runs on board.
Sure, factors like turn in the pitch and dew factor come in but they go out of the window if the team batting first posts a big total. This Asia Cup has been a low-scoring tournament with not a single team posting 300. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done in Dubai in Friday. Some daring batting in the first hour can set the stage for a total of 300 and chasing would be next to impossible as the match wears on.
Pitches in Dubai have become difficult to bat on. Chasing a total with Mustafizur Rahman bowling under lights won’t be easy. Yes India did do that earlier in the tournament after Bangladesh were bowled out for 173 but the final will be a different proposition, with the Tigers having won defending totals against Afghanistan and Pakistan thereafter, albeit in Abu Dhabi.
India struggled to chase down 253 against Afghanistan even with dew being a factor. When the pressure is on, the ticking scoreboard makes batsmen do funny things. In the final, India should make the most of their in-form top-order and put up a big total as chasing will not be easy because Bangladesh are likely to have the lion’s share of the crowd support as well.
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