Dream India-Pakistan Asia Cup final unlikely after narrow defeat to Sri Lanka

India, after losing both their Asia Cup Super Four games — to Pakistan and Sri Lanka — are on the verge of an early exit after starting the tournament on a rollicking note with a thrilling win against the Babar Azam-led arch-rivals in the Group stage in the UAE.

Rohit Sharma’s side lost another close game at the Dubai International Stadium to Sri Lanka by six wickets with just one ball remaining, and are now placed third behind Super Four leaders Sri Lanka (4 points from two games) and Pakistan (2 points from one game).

The team’s hopes of qualifying for the final are entirely dependent on them beating Afghanistan by a big margin and hope Pakistan lose both their games — against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan — which looks highly unlikely.

Sri Lanka, by beating India on the back of superb half-centuries from openers Pathum Nissanka and wicketkeeper-batter Kusal Mendis on Tuesday evening, only have Pakistan to play in the Super Four. While they have one foot in the final following two wins (and four points), they will need to beat Pakistan or hope Afghanistan lose one of their remaining games — to either India or Pakistan.

Even if both the permutations go against the Islanders, they can maintain a better net run rate (NRR) than either Pakistan or Afghanistan and still qualify for the final, which means the side is in prime position to make the final.

Dasun Shanaka’s team could qualify for the final as early as Wednesday should Afghanistan lose to Pakistan. Thanks to their healthy NRR of 0.351, it’d take a monumental effort for both Pakistan (0.126 NRR) and Afghanistan (-0.589 NRR) to topple Sri Lanka, according to ICC.

Pakistan too are in a great position to qualify if they win both the remaining games against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, or win at least one game and finish with a better NRR than either Afghanistan or Sri Lanka, or further, if they lose both, they need India to beat Afghanistan and hope their NRR is better than both those sides.

Pakistan’s thrilling win over India on Sunday (Sept 4) has put them in control of their own destiny, with two wins in the upcoming last two Super Four games ensuring they qualify for the final. Babar Azam’s side can also qualify despite losing one or even both games, should they maintain a healthier NRR than Afghanistan and India.

Afghanistan, being the least experienced side in the tournament but well capable of springing surprises, will have to beat both Pakistan and India — an uphill task — and maintain a better NRR than Pakistan or Sri Lanka. They can also qualify if the beat either India or Pakistan. This would also need Pakistan losing to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan finishing with a better NRR than both those teams.

Afghanistan’s loss to Sri Lanka and a poor NRR of -0.589 has made things difficult for Mohammad Nabi’s team but it’s not an impossible task. They could still feature in the final if they win their remaining two matches and imporve their unfavourable NRR.

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