High voltage clash
The stage for an electrifying and high-voltage final has been set as India will lock horns with arch-rivals Pakistan in the ultimate game of the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy. India have lived up to the expectations as they were one of the tournament favourites and now stand a golden chance of defending their title. Pakistan, on the other hand, have punched above their weight after a disappointing defeat in their opening game and now find themselves in a good position.
India have fared well in the tournament so far and have lost just a solitary game against Sri Lanka in the group stages. Pakistan have had an identical result as well with just a single defeat to their name in four games. India have an edge going into the tournament as they have beaten Pakistan in their opening game convincingly and boast of a better record in the history of ICC events. Pakistan have a huge mental barrier to overcome as any game between India and Pakistan is not just a game of cricket but also has a lot of pressure to deal with. A lot depends on how the teams hold their nerves and absorb the immense pressure.
Out of 15 games played between both the teams in ICC events so far, India have emerged victorious on 13 occasions, which speaks about the healthy track record India have had. Talking about Champions Trophy, both the teams have an equal record, India have won and lost two games out of four. In the tournament so far, India have fared well and played as a unit, their batting has scored runs on a consistent basis and did well against the best of the bowling attacks. Their bowling, on the other hand, have been outstanding barring the game against Sri Lanka. Their bowlers have done a commendable job in the two warm-up games and then lived up to the expectations in the rest of the tournament.
For Pakistan, their journey to the final has been awe-inspiring. Their bowling has been exceptional excluding the opening game against India. Their bowling has been their primary weapon and have been the key reason behind their success. Their batting has not looked very convincing as compared to their bowling but seem to be peaking at the right time. Once again, it will be a battle between India’s batting and Pakistan’s bowling. But, India have also developed into a formidable bowling attack and their pace battery inspires immense confidence.
Indian openers have been in fantastic form, especially Shikhar Dhawan, he is the top-scorer in the tournament and Rohit Sharma has also found his groove in the semi-final against Bangladesh with a scintillating ton. Although Virat Kohli got runs in the tournament but that magic with the bat was missing till the second semi-final encounter. Against Bangladesh, he found his groove and gained the momentum, which will now play a big role in the final as he is a big match player. Yuvraj Singh played a match-turning innings against Pakistan and will be eager to make an impact once again. MS Dhoni got an emphatic 63 in the only opportunity where he batted while Kedar Jadhav got an unbeaten 25 in his solitary outing with the bat, such has been the impact of India’s top-order.
India’s middle and lower middle-order haven’t been tested in the tournament so far, which can give Pakistan an advantage. Both the teams have picked wickets in the middle and this contest will certainly throw a mesmerising battle. Toss will once again play a crucial role as India have won all the games chasing while lost the only game against Sri Lanka where they were defending. All of Pakistan’s victory also came while chasing beside the one against India. None of the teams would not like to experiment in such a crunch situation and it would be interesting to see what the team will do after winning the toss.
Charismatic and unpredictable Pakistan
Pakistan are charismatic and unpredictable, but still, such qualities don’t click every day and so, if they are eyeing to win, they will have to bring their best game out. And to do so, they don’t have to do anything out of the box, just consider this game like another ODI. Prior to their opening encounter against India, Sarfraz Ahmed spoke about ‘out of the box’ plans against India, which didn’t work for them by far. If Pakistan are eyeing to win this epic encounter then their bowlers will have to get rid of India’s top-order early and test their middle-order. Pakistan boast of a dominant pace attack with the likes of Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan and Mohammad Amir (if fit).
One of the key aspects from Pakistan’s campaign in the tournament has been their improved fielding. They have lifted their game on the field and have cupped some mind-blowing catches. They were sloppy on the field against India but have pulled up on this front. Sarfraz Ahmed was a bit defensive in his approach against India and opened the bowling with Imad Wasim from the other end. He will have to be a bit aggressive and attack with the new ball in order to get early wickets.
Pakistan’s middle-order hails of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik. The duo carries massive experience on their shoulders but are yet to do something substantial in the tournament. If Pakistan are thinking about fetching big runs on the board, then the duo will have to step up and garner runs. They have found a reliable opening pair in the form of Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman but will need a substantial contribution from the middle-order as well. Their bowling has been up to the mark and will need their batting to step up. They did reasonably well against England and will have to replicate it once again in order to put up a strong fight. Eventually, a lot will come down to how both the teams absorb the big match pressure. As of now, all eyes are set at The Oval as the biggest match of the tournament is about to be played