A resurgent Pakistan will have to change the history in the final of the Champions Trophy at The Oval on Sunday in a “dream clash” when they face arch-rivals India in the Champions Trophy final which will estimatedly attract over one billion spectators world-wide.
India have been dominant in the ICC events with 13 wins in 15 games and on the back of their strong batting and fast maturing fast bowling. They have beaten Pakistan in six World Cup matches (50 overs), five World Twenty20 matches (including the 2007 final) and two Champions Trophy matches.
Pakistan’s only two wins came in the 2004 and 2009 Champions Trophy.
India had routed Pakistan by a big 124-run margin at Edgbaston in the first game but that was the injection Pakistan needed. They never turned back and recorded wins over South Africa by 19 runs on Duckworth-Lewis, by three wickets against Sri Lanka and by a big eight wicket against England in the semi-final.
Pakistan’s bowling is capable of holding India’s batting juggernauts, with Rohit Sharma top on this tournament’s batting charts with.317, his co-opener Shikhar Dhawan (304) and one-day’s top batsman Virat Kohli knocking 253 runs.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed knows the value of getting wickets upfront.
“Ys, we know we have to get the top order as quickly as possible,” said Sarfraz. “If their batting is in top gear then our bowling is also in the same mode.”
Pakistan will hope spearhead Mohammad Amir recovers in time from a back spasm which forced him to miss the semi-final against England but his absence was not felt in the semi-final as another fast rising left-armer Rumman Raees filled in with two wickets.
Head coach Mickey Arthur confirmed Amir is fit and will play, but in whose place it will be decided later. There will be a temptation of playing Raees instead of one from Shadab Khan or Imad Waseem. Pakistan can be better off if they attack India with four seamers.
“Amir has bowled in the nets tommorrow and today so the physio is assessing him, we hope that he will be available for selection,” said Sarfraz.
India will also prefer seam over spin as their spin ace Ravichandaran Ashwin may not be available for selection with a knee injury. India didn’t play him either in the first game against Pakistan..
India too had their wake-up call in the tournament when they went down by seven wickets against Sri Lanka at The Oval but quickly recovered to beat South Africa in the crunch must-win and then blasted Bangladesh on the back of a Rohit hundred in the semi-final by nine wickets.
Kohli once again reiterated it will be a normal game, despite the hype and the two nations coming to a standstill.
“I don’t take extra pressure thinking he’s bowling from here, what if he doesn’t do that in the game. So I think of those things. I like to go by what I see coming out of the hand, and yeah, I mean, whether you have played people before or you haven’t, this game, as I said, you cannot guarantee a performance,” said Kohli.
“Pakistan is a dangerous side and have bounced back very well on the back of some good performances so we have to be at our best,” said the Indian captain.
The hot weather, with temperatures rising to 30 degree which will be the hottest day of the summer in London, will help swing and that will be a big factor to give Pakistan the edge.
The main attraction will be around Hasan Ali who is tournament’s highest wicket-taker with ten and is favorite to win the “Golden ball” on offer for events best bowler.