Similar to last year's T20 World Cup held in the UAE, the toss has played a major role in the competition. Since the start of 2021, there have been 21 T20Is played at the Dubai International Stadium and only on three occasions has the team batting first won the match. Those three games were played against Scotland, Hong Kong and Afghanistan by India and New Zealand. The Dubai pitch is known to be favourable for chasing because of two factors: dew and the pitch getting faster to bat on under lights.
Surprisingly, both Pakistan and Sri Lanka batters have fared below par against spin this tournament. Barring the duo of Mohammad Nawaz and Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan batters have been a bit circumspect against spin. The likes of Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Babar Azam and Khushdil Shah strike at less than 100 against spin this tournament. Sri Lanka will be looking to capitalise on this weakness of Pakistan. To handle the spinners in the middle overs, Pakistan could promote Shadab Khan and Nawaz, and play their match-ups tactically to catch Sri Lanka off guard.
When Sri Lanka and Pakistan met in the Super 4, Wanindu Hasaranga, who returned with figures of 3 for 21, was the the Player of the Match. He took the key wickets of Babar, Iftikhar and Asif Ali to dent them in the middle overs. Interestingly, Hasaranga's record against Pakistan in T20Is has been way above par compared to other oppositions. He has taken 11 wickets at an average of 9.09 and has conceded just 6.25 runs per over from 96 balls. One of his weapons is the googly and Pakistan's record in this tournament against this particular delivery has been a bit underwhelming. They have scored 72 runs from 63 balls while losing four wickets. One potential plan to counter Hasaranga could be to ensure left-hand batters face him more. In this Asia Cup, all of Hasaranga's six wickets are right-hand batters while the left-hand batters have scored at par.
Before this Asia Cup, one of the biggest concerns for Sri Lanka was their opening stand. They averaged 19.80 and struck at 117 since January 2022 without creating any impetus in the powerplay. Sri Lanka decided to replace Danushka Gunathilaka with Mendis for the Asia Cup and it has been a refreshing change. Barring the first game against Afghanistan, their openers have led from the front.
Gaurav Sundararaman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo