The Asia Cup Twenty20 (T20) 2016 is underway now with two exciting matches being dished out so far. While India got past the hosts Bangladesh with a few hiccups in the tournament opener, — thanks to Rohit Sharma who saved the day with his 55-ball 83 — Sri Lanka had to sweat it out against the lowly UAE in the second match on Thursday. Batting first, they could manage only 129 and had it not been for some inspirational bowling from their captain Lasith Malinga, they could have suffered the first setback of the tournament. UAE did well and their loss margin of 14 runs shows that. They will have little time to regroup as they take on Bangladesh on Friday.

All eyes, however, will be on the mouth watering India-Pakistan contest scheduled for Saturday, the prime slot of weekend. It never gets bigger than this, and few may disagree that any match between these two teams in a multi-nation event is way bigger than even the final of that tournament, of course if it does not feature them. The arch rivals, who last played against each other in the World Cup 2015, will be playing after a year. When they last took on each other, India prevailed, beating them quite comprehensively. But that was a World Cup, and India enjoy an unbeaten streak against them in the World Cups. This is Asia Cup and things are quite different here.

If we go back and take a look at the history of these two Asian powerhouses in this particular tournament, things have been pretty even-stevens so far. In the 11 Asia Cup matches played as yet, both India and Pakistan have won five times each, while their tie in the 1997 edition ended in no result due to rain and could not be completed even on the reserve day. Their first ever Asia Cup encounter was played in 1984, with India winning it comfortably in Sharjah. Wicket-keeper batsman Surinder Khanna was adjudged the Man-of-the-Match for his fifty that came opening the innings in an easy chase.

pak-vs-ind-info(1)

The next two matches in 1988 and 1995 were dominated by bowlers, as Arshad Ayub won the former for India with his fifer while Aaqib Javed ran through the Indian batting to win the latter for his country. Since the turn of millennium, the two teams have faced each other seven times in Asia Cup and Pakistan have had the upper hand by winning four of them. In almost all of these games, the batsmen have dominated the proceedings. Some big hundreds have been scored in the process including the ones by Yousuf Youhana (now Mohammad Yusuf) in 2000, Shoaib Malik in 2004 and 2008, Virender Sehwag in 2008 and the biggest of them all, Virat Kohli’s monstrous 183 off just 148 balls in 2012. However, all that is a part of history now and holds little relevance today as the context has completely changed.

2016 is a fresh start with a new format. This is the first time the Asia Cup is being played in the T20 format and India certainly won’t mind it. After all, they have won six of their last seven T20Is and are currently world’s top ranked side in this format. Even against Pakistan, they enjoy a superior 5-1 record in T20Is. So, going into this high-voltage clash, it will be Pakistan who will feel the pressure. All the recent experience of playing in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) will count nothing as this contest is against India. They will back their bowlers to deliver the goods against the mighty Indian batting line-up. Meanwhile, India will simply look to carry forward the momentum in the mother-of-all-battles this Saturday.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricLife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)