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For the second consecutive Asia Cup, the final will be played between India and Bangladesh. India strolled into the final only being challenged by the associate times when most of their frontline players were rested. They beat Bangladesh with ease and consigned Pakistan to two of their heaviest defeats in history on the way to the final.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, had a much rockier road to follow. They lost to Afghanistan in the group stages before sneaking past them in a very tight encounter the second time around. A heavy loss against India would have dented their confidence but the win against Pakistan was Bangladesh at its best.
Now, both teams have to be at their best to win the Asia Cup 2018 and be crowned champions of Asia. Can India continue its remarkable unbeaten streak in the tournament or will Bangladesh find a way past its new found rival?
After the experiment in the match against Afghanistan ended in a tie, there is no doubt that India will be back to its full strength side ahead of the final. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, and Yuzvendra Chahal will all walk back into the side in place of Lokesh Rahul, Manish Pandey, Siddharth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed, and Deepak Chahar.
A full-strength Indian side has not really been challenged in this tournament so far and it has shown that there is a gulf between it and everyone else. The main reason for this success has been the Indian bowling.
Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar have been economical while picking wickets at the same time. They come at you hard during their opening spell and keep looking for wickets all throughout the inning. Bumrah’s death bowling was on display against Pakistan in the last match he played and that was something we doubt any other bowler in the world can come close to matching right now.
The pair is followed by the spin trio of Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, and Kuldeep Yadav. The two wrist-spinners have become the first choice picks for India since the champions trophy and that is because of their ability to take wickets in the middle overs.
Ravindra Jadeja picked up four wickets on his return to ODI cricket against Bangladesh in the last match but we think he could actually be a weak link for India in this match. Jadeja does not get too much spin of these dead surfaces and his pace can allow the batsmen to line him up quite easily.
A few of the Bangladeshi batsmen are quite adept at the slog sweep and that is how they may attack Jadeja.
Still, there is no doubt that India has the best bowling attack in this competition by a long distance.
India’s batting has not really been tested because of the form of Rohit and Dhawan. Both these two players have been in brilliant form racking up runs with enormous ease. Rohit Sharma has made it a habit of sorts of scoring runs against Bangladesh in critical encounters.
There is no wicket that the Bangladeshi’s would want more than Rohit's.
Shikhar Dhawan has been in tremendous touch and is playing the best cricket we have seen him play in a long time. With these two at the top, and Ambati Rayadu to follow, the Indian top-3 is pretty formidable.
Where Bangladesh will think they have a chance is in the middle order against Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, and Kedar Jadhav. The trio has failed in the two matches they got a chance and there is nothing much to follow them either.
Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, YS Chahal, JJ Bumrah.
It would be fair to say that Bangladesh and its supporters gave the side an excellent chance of making the finals before the Asia Cup began. They started with a few bumps but there is no question that they thoroughly deserve to be in the finals competing against India.
The question now arises, though, how does Bangladesh beat India?
They don’t have to look too far back for inspiration because the last full series between the two sides was won by Bangladesh 2-1. That series took place in Bangladesh, conditions not too dissimilar from the ones we are seeing now, and the wins were achieved on the back of a strong bowling attack.
Bangladesh showed in the last match that its bowling attack has variety, subtlety, and skill to challenge the best in the world. Mustafizur Rahman started his ODI career with an absolute bang and then lost his way somewhat due to injury. He now seems to have recovered that missing yard of pace and is bowling very well.
He is very difficult to get away at the death and can pick up wickets early in the inning as well.
Mustafizur will have support from Mihidy Hasan Miraz, an off-spinner of immense talent. His spell against Pakistan in the last match was a throwback to classic off-spin bowling relying on dip, drift, and changes of pace.
The two will pose questions to India’s batsmen and how that contest turns out will be a major determinant of the eventual result. Bangladesh will be without Shakib Al Hasan for the final and that means a big loss to the side. Shakib is not only someone who will give you ten overs but can also change the game with the bat.
As a result, Bangladesh will have to hope that players like Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah can come together to fill in for the ten overs. The skipper Mashrafe Mortaza and fast bowler Rubel Hossain will also have to ensure they are able to keep the pressure on a strong Indian batting lineup.
O the batting front, Bangladesh owes its place in the final to Mushfiqur Rahim. The Bangladeshi wicketkeeper was off the field with an injury concern in the second half if the match against Pakistan but he is expected to be fit for the final.
Rahim has some past history with India that he would like to settle and there is no better time than the form he has been in. Bangladesh will be desperate to have him at 100% fitness because he currently holds the key as its best batsman.
We like the addition of Imrul Kayes and Soumya Sarkar into the side because it adds a little experience but overall, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah are the two players that will have to lead the charge for Bangladesh.
Mithun, with two back to the wall fifties, is also someone that India don't want to take lightly.
Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mohammad Mithun, Mushfiqur Rahim, Imrul Kayes, Mahmudullah, Mehidy Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza, Nazmul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Mustafizur Rahman.
We think that Bangladesh will be keen to bat first while India would prefer to chase if they win the toss
Read our guide on toss predictions to learn how we analyze and come up with our tips.
The final is going to be held in Dubai where runs scoring has been a little better than at Abu Dhabi. The weather is going to be hot and experience has shown that a slight amount of dew does help quicken up the pitch under the lights.
260-270 should be considered a good total on this match, although, chasing 250 has been filled with peril as well. We expect a flat batting pitch with nothing in it for the bowlers.
Bangladesh will be desperate to beat India and get the monkey off their backs. They are also available at a fantastic rate of close to four and a half times return. It is very tempting to bet on the in-form Bangladeshis from purely a gambling point of view. However, considering India’s consistency and its superiority in all aspects of the game, we think India will win this match quite easily.
Back India to win.