The 2017 ICC Champions Trophy was supposed to be the one that England finally won. Former captains were queuing up to laud Eoin Morgan’s side ahead of the tournament with Michael Vaughan, who skippered England’s near miss in 2004. But as Vaughan himself will know, given that sensational defeat at the Oval 13 years ago, things don’t always go to plan.
But as Vaughan himself will know, given that sensational defeat at the Oval 13 years ago, things don’t always go to plan.
The tournament has witnessed runs aplenty. Five of the first ten matches in the group stages saw teams registering 300 or more runs, with targets north of that figure successfully chased down twice. It’s the shape of things to come, with some bowlers complaining it’s harder for their ilk to perform in the 50 over format than it is in T20 fixtures.
The two semi-finals were one-sided affairs with shocks few and far between. Pakistan have had two victories against the odds: beating South Africa – admittedly via the Duckworth/Lewis/Stern method – in the group stages before putting on a brilliant display in Cardiff to comprehensively defeat England.
The question is: can they do it again against an Indian side who have already beaten them.
Never Just A Game Of Cricket
The history of India and Pakistan means it is never just about what happens on the pitch. At the moment, due to domestic terrorism in Pakistan, the teams only ever take to the field against one another on neutral pitches. There are no bilateral series between the pair and that doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon.
The situation only adds to the tension surrounding fixtures between the two teams and, with what will probably be the most highly anticipated sporting events across the globe in 2017, it is a game both will be desperate to win.
Pakistan have never beaten India in either an ICC World Cup or and ICC World T20 tournament. However, in the ICC Champions Trophy the pair have split four meetings, with two wins apiece. Virat Kohli’s team came out on top by 124 runs via the DLS method in the group stages.
India To Confirm Current Superiority
Grosvenor Sport make India 11/25 to beat Pakistan, for what would be a fifth time in the last six 50-over meetings. While Pakistan have caught the eye twice with brilliant displays against South Africa and England, it is a big ask for Safraz Ahmed to inspire his troops for a third time. Not only have Pakistan never won the ICC Champions Trophy, they have never been to a final before; making the semi-finals three times previously, most recently in 2009.
Pakistan will draw plenty of encouragement from their semi-final success over the hosts and, in particular, the performances of Hassan Ali and Fakhar Zaman. Ali has taken more wickets (10) than any other bowler in the tournament, while Zaman’s 57 from 58 balls demoralised England’s attack. Ali is just 23 and could grow into something special, but it’s worth pointing out that both players have limited experience in this format of the game. Ahmed said he instructed his team to do all the basics right against England, in which the hosts were outplayed in every department, and they’ll have to do something similar again to win in South London.
While Pakistan have the top wicket taker in their ranks, India have the man who can boast the most runs. Shikhar Dhawan has made this tournament his own, with devastating knocks against Pakistan (68), Sri Lanka (125), South Africa (78) and Bangladesh (46). With so much assistance from the likes of Kohli and Rohit Sharma, it appears that those who can rack up runs will come out on top.
It is unlikely that Pakistan will reverse the form from earlier this month and, on the biggest stage, you can easily see some of their more inexperienced players freezing up. Nothing was really expected from them in the semi-final, but there is always pressure against India, and that seems to be something that Kohli and company deal with much better.