An India-Pakistan finale in a global event – at times it sounds like a carefully written Bollywood script. At the start of the tournament, only a few would have foreseen this situation, especially keeping in mind the inexperience in the Pakistan team and the way they were humiliated by ViratKohli’s and co. in their opening encounter of this ICC Champions Trophy.
However, Pakistan played some rousing cricket in their next three fixtures against South Africa, Sri Lanka and in-form hosts respectively to make it to this tournament decider. Now, to win their first ever global 50-over tournament since 1992, Pakistan have to go past arch-rival India at the Oval on Sunday.
When it comes to an India-Pakistan encounter, nerves always play and important role. However, this time along with that, Pakistan will have to battle with the technical difficulties as well and overcoming the lack of exposure at the flat Oval wicket in this Champions Trophy – is their major challenge, going into this all-important fixture.
Since landing in the United Kingdom (UK) for this edition of ICC Champions Trophy, Pakistan have not played a single match at the Oval, including any warm-up game. They played all their matches in Edgbaston and Cardiff, where the pitches were slightly in favour of their pace trio ofHasan Ali, Junaid Khan and Mohammad Amir. And we all know it is primarily because of their bowling efforts, Pakistan have managed to reach so far in the competition.
The conditions in Birmingham and Cardiff helped the Pakistan pacers to get sideways movement, which other bowling attacks in the competition have failed to achieve. Even all of them were successfully extracting reverse swing towards the death overs– the aspect, which played an important role behind Pakistan’s resurgence in this tournament.
Meanwhile, in the final, Pakistan attack will face a different challenge altogether. They have to battle it out against the best batting line-up in the world right now – India, that too on a batting friendly wicket.
According to the left-arm seamer, Junaid, who replaced WahabRiaz in the playing eleven after the first game against India and taken seven wicket in three matches in the tournament, Pakistan have to get familiar with the wicket of Oval during the gap which they are getting before the final.
“We came to England, expecting seaming and swinging conditions. But that didn’t happen and we as a bowling unit had adjusted accordingly. Now, once again we have to adjust [For the batting friendly Oval track]. We will be practicing there, before the final. So after we go there and see the conditions, then we can prepare accordingly and implement our plans in the match,” the 27-year old, who is making a comeback in the nation team in this Champions Trophy, was saying after claiming 2 for 42 against England in the semi-final.
Experts believe, the Sunday’s final will be a tussle between Pakistan bowling vs Indian batting. However, if Pakistan want to tame India at Oval, their in-form pace attack has to do something extraordinary, especially up front.The new ball will be crucial against the in-form Indian top order.
The fast bowlers have to alter their lengths and use their varieties to try and keep the Indian batsmen guessing. Bowling a predictable length can allow the batsmen to hit through the line.
Extracting reverse swing here will be a bit difficult in these conditions, but this Pakistan attack has the quality and skills to get sideways movement from white-ball. So it will be interesting to notice how much of their skills, the Pak bowlers can implement on the field of play in this high-pressure game.
Good news for Pakistan, Amir, who missed the semi-final due to an injury, has been declared fit for the final. His inclusion will be a big morale booster for the ‘Men in Green’.