Mirpur: India's hopes of a miraculous entry into the final of the Asia Cup got buried under another Shahid Afridi blinder on Tuesday night. With Pakistan chasing down 327 against Bangladesh to snatch another thrilling last-over win, they sealed a final clash with already qualified Sri Lanka, thus reducing India's match against Afghanistan on Wednesday to one of academic interest only. Pakistan have 13 points and so do Sri Lanka, with a match in hand. India can only hope to sign off their disastrous campaign with a win against spirited debutants Afghanistan and finish with 9, even if they earn a bonus point.
Even that's not going to be easy for the Indians who look vulnerable without regular skipper MS Dhoni. The batting has centred around Kohli as none of the other batsmen have shown the temperament to stay at the crease. For a team that relies on its batting prowess, it is proving to be the difference between a victory and loss.
It will be a test of the Indian batting against Afghanistan who have been a revelation in this tournament putting up an impressive show especially with their pace bowling. They have a potent pace attack in the Zadran duo of Shapoor and Dawlat and the left-right combination bring in the variety to fast bowling. (Also read: India wary of Afghan pacer, says Rayudu)
Their spin department also has the variety in the trio of skipper Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari and Hamza Hotak. Nabi gets vicious turn with his off-spin, while Shenwari's sharp leg-breaks too have troubled the opponents. Left-armer Hotak has also done well to restrict the flow of runs at one end, conceding runs at 4.04 from three matches.
Bubbling with enthusiasm, Afghanistan announced their arrival at the big stage when they downed Bangladesh by 32 runs for their maiden victory against a Test-playing nation after four matches.
Afghanistan's bowlers would look to primarily target Kohli. A level of mediocrity has descended on the Indian side after drawing a blank on the tours of South Africa and New Zealand.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Cheteshwar Pujara, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron and Ishwar Pandey.
Afghanistan: Mohammad Nabi (c), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zardan, Asghar Stanikzai, Nawroj Mangal, Samiullah Shenwari, Najibullah Zardan, Mirwais Ashraf, Hamza Hotak, Dawlat Zardan, Shapoor Zardan, Hamid Hassan, Karim Sadiq, Rahmat Shah, Fazal Niazai.
Match starts: 1.30pm IST.