Six nations will compete for cricket’s Asia Cup from Wednesday, co-hosted by Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Won by Sri Lanka a year ago over the T20 format, this year the Asia Cup reverts to 50 overs.
It is also a final chance for Asia’s cricketing giants to size each other up before October’s World Cup in India.
The top two teams from each group advance to the Super Four with the leading two in the standings contesting the final in Colombo on September 17.
Here’s how the tournament shapes up:
– Group A –
— The top-ranked team is co-hosts with Sri Lanka after a hybrid model was agreed upon because India refused to play in Pakistan.
Pakistan, who rose to world number one after sweeping Afghanistan 3-0 last week, will stage four matches with the remaining nine, including the final in Sri Lanka.
ODI ranking: 1
Captain: Babar Azam
Key players: Babar Azam (batsman), Shaheen Shah Afridi (left-arm fast bowler), Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper-batsman)
Asia Cup best: Winners 2000, 2012 (both 50-over)
— The cricketing powerhouse have won more Asia Cups than anyone and enter the tournament as favourites as they go for an eighth title.
Captain: Rohit Sharma
Key players: Virat Kohli (batsman), Hardik Pandya (all-rounder), Jasprit Bumrah (fast bowler)
Asia Cup best: Winners 1984, 1988, 1990, 1995, 2010, 2018 (50-over) and 2016 (T20).
— Making their debut, Nepal face a baptism of fire against India and Pakistan. Reached the World Cup qualifiers earlier this year, but failed to qualify for the 50-over showpiece.
ODI ranking: 15
Captain: Rohit Paudel
Key players: Aarif Sheikh (batsman), Paudel (batting all-rounder), Sandeep Lamichhane (leg-spinner), Aasif Sheikh (wicketkeeper-batsman)
Asia Cup best: Debut 2023
– Group B –
— The Bangla Tigers have made it to three Asia Cup finals without winning and have had a difficult build-up with captain Tamim Iqbal and missing the tournament with a back injury.
ODI ranking: 7
Captain: Shakib Al Hasan
Key players: Shakib Al Hasan (batting all-rounder), Mushfiqur Rahim (wicketkeeper-batsman), Mehidy Hasan Miraz (all-rounder)
Asia Cup best: Runner-uo (50-over) 2012, 2018, (T20) 2016
— The co-hosts have been a force in the tournament, lifting the trophy six times. They triumphed last year in Dubai, when the Asia Cup was played as a Twenty20 tournament, but have been hit by injuries for this edition.
ODI ranking: 8
Captain: Dasun Shanaka
Key players: Kusal Mendis (opener), Dhananjaya de Silva (all-rounder)
Asia Cup best: Winners (50-over) 1986, 1997, 2004, 2008, 2014, and (T20) 2022
— On their Asia Cup debut in 2014, Afghanistan won their second match against Bangladesh and with their potent spin attack can on their day pose a threat to the top teams.
ODI ranking: 9
Captain: Hasmatullah Shahidi
Key players: Rashid Khan (leg-spinner), Mohammad Nabi (all-rounder), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (off-spinner)
Asia Cup best: Super Four 2018 (50-over), 2022 (T20)