Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Pakistan are set to play India on September 2 in Kandy in the 2023 Asia Cup, which is scheduled to start on August 30, a day earlier than originally planned by the Asian Cricket Council (ACC). ESPNcricinfo has learnt the tournament opener will be played in Multan with hosts Pakistan playing Nepal with the final scheduled in Colombo on September 17.
Those matches feature in the latest version of the draft schedule which is likely to see further changes before the ACC announces the final version. The original draft schedule, prepared by the PCB (the hosting board), has already undergone several iterations mainly because of the six-nation tournament being played in Pakistan and Sri Lanka based on the hybrid model approved by the ACC recently.
A total of 13 matches will be played in the tournament. Pakistan are grouped with India and Nepal in Group A while Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are in Group B. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the Super Four stage with the top two teams in this phase advancing to the final. The Asia Cup, which will be played in the 50-overs format this time, is essentially a preparation run for five of the six teams - barring Nepal - for the ODI World Cup which begins from October 5 in India.
As per the original model, which was prepared by the PCB, Pakistan were meant to host four matches in just one city. However, Multan was added as the second venue after a new PCB administration, under new chairman Zaka Ashraf, took over this month. In the draft schedule, Multan is scheduled to host just the opening match with Lahore staging three matches and one Super Fours game.
Bangladesh are slotted to play Afghanistan on September 3 in Lahore followed by Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan at the Gaddafi Stadium on September 5. The draft schedule also points out that regardless of where they finish in the first round, Pakistan will remain A1 and India A2 while Sri Lanka will be B1 and Bangladesh B2. In case Nepal and Afghanistan qualify for the Super Four stage, they will take the slot of the team knocked out (Pakistan or India in Group A and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Group B).
The only Super Fours match listed in the draft schedule to be played in Pakistan is on September 6 between A1 and B2. In case both Pakistan and India advance to the Super Four stage, they will play again on September 10 in Kandy. Dambulla is the other Sri Lankan venue listed to host three matches in the Super 4s stage.