The attention is beginning to turn towards the ICC World Cup later in the year and getting us closer to that tournament is the Asia Cup, which begins on Wednesday and which this year is a 50 over competition to act as preparation for the global event.
Sri Lanka won this tournament last year when it was a 20 over competition while India won it the last time it was a 50 over event. Six teams will be starting out with five of them having qualified for the World Cup so this feels like an important tournament.
2022 – Sri Lanka
2018 – India
2016 – India
2014 – Sri Lanka
2012 – Pakistan
2010 – India
2008 – Sri Lanka
2004 – Sri Lanka
2000 – Pakistan
1997 – Sri Lanka
The six teams have been split into two groups of three for the opening leg of the tournament. Each plays the other two sides once and then at the end of that the top two in each group move into the Super Four stage where the four teams play the other three once. From there the top two will progress into the final. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are sharing the hosting of the tournament this year and the final will be played in Colombo on September 17.
India are not the defending champions for this tournament but they did win it the last time it was a 50 over competition and they are the favourite to win it again this year. India are a shade of odds against on the very best prices but are generally odds on across the board and they are sending a much stronger squad to this event than we have seen in recent series they have played. You sense for India that their build-up to a home World Cup begins here and will intensify throughout the tournament. They are the team to beat.
Pakistan haven’t got their hands on this trophy since 2012 but they are probably playing their best cricket as a team since then. The PSL has really allowed their white ball cricket to thrive again and allows them to mix up experience star quality with young potential and it seems to keep them going. Pakistan will have home advantage for much of the tournament which will benefit them and they look worthy second favourites at around the 9/4 mark.
Sri Lanka are the defending champions in this tournament and they are 15/2 to keep hold of their crown. We should remember that it was a T20 competition that they won but they are the co-hosts of the event this year and that should help them a little. Sri Lanka have a few injuries heading into this tournament though so it might be that we don’t see the very best of them in this event, especially at the beginning while new players come into the side.
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Bangladesh are the fourth favourites for the tournament but they seem to be dropping another player from their squad because of injury by the week which is not ideal. Bangladesh were recently beaten by Afghanistan in an ODI series which is less than ideal either and they just don’t look the same side they were heading into say the last 50 over World Cup when they were probably at their best. They are seeded to reach the final four but that isn’t guaranteed.
In fact, Afghanistan are probably where Bangladesh were four years ago. They have just beaten the Tigers in an ODI series which will give them a lot of confidence and in this part of the world where pace and mystery spin rule the roost they could be a tough nut to crack if their batting holds up. This feels like the best Afghanistan squad we’ve seen for a while, one which could easily do some damage in this tournament if their batting holds up.
Nepal are the outsiders of the sextet at 250/1. Those odds seem unfair in a six-horse race but they are reflective of their chances of winning this tournament. Nepal really won their own tournament in just making it to this stage and now their aim will be to attempt to challenge one of the two big guns in their group and see if they can take some confidence from that. They are not at this level at this stage so experience is all they are really going to gain here.
It is hard to go against India here but with all the tensions with Pakistan it might be that this isn’t the tournament to take them at a short price. We’ve seen Bangladesh make three of the last five finals of this tournament so they made it to the title game while they were emerging as well as when they came onto the scene and so it might be worth chancing Afghanistan in this tournament as they are very much following the same trend as Bangladesh were a decade ago.
It might be a tournament too soon for Afghanistan but they have a top level spin attack and enough pace with the ball to be a threat. They have a crop of experienced batters and a middle order which can propel a total on and these aren’t conditions where their batters are going to be shot out by extreme pace unlike if the event was in England or Australia for example. If someone is going to emerge to stop the big two meeting in the final it could easily be Afghanistan at a juicy price.
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