Pakistan won their previous clash against Nepal in the Asia Cup opener by 238 runs, with skipper Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed both making centuries. Babar went on to score 151 – his second 150 score in ODIs – while Iftikhar registered his maiden ton in the format. The duo helped Pakistan to a score of 342-6.
Shadab Khan secured four crucial wickets and Shaheen Shah Afridi contributed with a couple in the second innings, which helped Pakistan dismiss Nepal for 104.
These stellar performances indicate the team's exceptional form, and led to the management naming the same Pakistan XI for the India clash.
However, question marks would have remained over Fakhar Zaman's spot in the Pakistan XI after his recent struggles. The opener has been experiencing a poor run of form, managing only 59 runs in the three-match ODI series against Afghanistan and made a mere 14 runs in the match against Nepal. Although he started off well in the clash, he failed to carry on and fell victim to Karan KC's bowling.
Pakistan's openers, Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq, failed to make a significant impact in the previous match, and have shown signs of struggles against pace in recent times The Indian fast bowlers, including Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Mohammed Siraj, will, thus, be aiming to exploit this weakness.
On the bowling front, Pakistan appears to have a stable lineup, with their pacers in exceptional form. Shaheen has previously troubled the Indian team, and he will be the key against India skipper Rohit Sharma, who struggles against left-arm quicks.
Sharma has been dismissed to left-arm fast bowlers 33 times in ODIs and a further 20 times in T20Is. In the 50-over format, he has fallen to them 20 times in the first powerplay, and Pakistan would be eager to get the upper hand again.
Haris Rauf, with a desire to make amends, particularly against Virat Kohli, who was the star perforer in their previous T20 World Cup encounter last year, is another key player. Shadab and Mohammad Nawaz will also play crucial roles, as the spinners are expected to receive support from the conditions in Pallekele.
Though there are predictions of heavy showers during the high-octane clash, it should be an enthralling encounter between the two arch-rivals. This will be the first time since the 2019 ODI World Cup that India and Pakistan will face off against each other in a men's ODI.
Pakistan confirmed playing XI vs India:
Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Agha Salman, Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah