ICC Champions Trophy 2017: India's openers inspire captain Virat Kohli ahead of final against Pakistan

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Inspired: India's main man Kohli.

India captain Virat Kohli heads into a Champions Trophy final against arch-rivals Pakistan back on top of the one-day international batting rankings.

But the star batsman insists it is the form of the title-holders’ opening duo that is giving him confidence in the lead up to Sunday’s clash between the sub-continent cricket giants at the Oval.

The 28-year-old Kohli is also top of the tournament batting averages with a scarcely credible mark of 253 – a figure that owes much to the fact that three of his four innings so far have been not outs.

Kohli was undefeated again as India crushed Bangladesh by nine wickets in a commanding semi-final victory at Edgbaston – the venue where they won the 2013 Champions Trophy title – on Wednesday.

His 96 not out saw Kohli end the match with nearly 10 overs to spare by hitting a four off Sabbir Rahman.

But Rohit Sharma was 123 not out at the other end, having shared an unbroken stand of 178 with his skipper.

By the time Kohli came in, however, India were well on their way to chasing down a modest victory target of 265 thanks to a brisk opening partnership of 87 between Sharma and left-hander Shikhar Dhawan, who made 46.

“I’m really enjoying the way I’m batting,” Kohli told reporters.

“For me the number of runs do not matter at this stage. I’m really enjoying the process.”

“The way Rohit and Shikhar batted, it just gave me so much confidence heading out of the changing room. Those two guys really dent the opposition mentally,” he explained.

That India had a below par total to chase owed much to Kohli’s decision to bring on unheralded spinner Kedar Jadhav.

He only had six ODI wickets prior to this match yet dismissed both Bangladesh top-scorers Tamim Iqbal (70) and Mushfiqur Rahim (61) on his way to figures of two for 22 in six overs.

The Tigers’ third-wicket duo had given India something to think about while adding 123 but once they were both out the innings fell away.

“He bowled really well, credit to him,” said Kohli of Jadhav.

“He doesn’t bowl much in the nets, but he’s a smart cricketer.”

“He knows where the batsmen get into trouble, and if you can think like a batter when you’re bowling, it’s obviously a bit of an advantage to any bowler.”

India will now finish the tournament against Pakistan having started their title defence with a 124-run thrashing of their traditional foes in Birmingham under a fortnight ago.

While it may be one of cricket’s oldest cliches to label Pakistan “unpredictable”, they’ve done their best to live up to it during this tournament.

After a performance against India even Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur labelled “shambolic”, they bounced back to beat top-ranked South Africa.

Pakistan then held their nerve to beat Sri Lanka in what was a virtual quarter-final in Cardiff on Monday.

Two days on, they raised their game still further to inflict a crushing eight-wicket defeat of previously unbeaten tournament hosts England in a semi-final in the Welsh capital.

For all that India’s margin of victory was greater, Pakistan’s last-four success was arguably even more impressive given they bowled England out for just 211.

“The turnaround has been magnificent,” said Kohli of Pakistan’s progress.

“They’ve beaten sides that looked really strong against them.”

For Bangladesh their first major semi-final was a reality check.

Having been spared all but certain elimination when rain washed out their match with Australia, the Tigers got to the knockout phase with just one win, albeit their defeat of New Zealand was a well-deserved success.

Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan was left lamenting the fact his side had been “nowhere near their best” against India.

“I thought we were in a very good situation to score 300-320, that would have been a different game,” said Shakib. “Losing those two wickets to an occasional bowler obviously didn’t help.”

“With our runs and that wicket, we knew it was very hard for our bowlers, but still I think we were nowhere near our best today, especially in our bowling and fielding.”

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Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav included in India squad for limited-overs tour of West Indies

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Kuldeep Yadav during his Test debut earlier this year [Sportzpics]

Wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant and left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav have been selected in India’s squad for the tour of the West Indies which gets underway on June 23.

While 13 players from India’s Champions Trophy squad will also travel to the Caribbean, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah have been rested.

Both Pant and Kuldeep made their international debuts earlier this year but neither has played in one-day internationals so far. Both players put in some really good performances in the Ranji Trophy last season and are seen as future stars of the team.

West Indies and India will face off in five ODIs and one T20I.

SQUAD

Virat Kohli (v), Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni (wk), Yuvraj Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Dinesh Karthik (wk).

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Yuvraj Singh's five most memorable ODI moments

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Yuvraj Singh was brilliant with bat and ball in the 2011 World Cup [Getty Images]

India’s Yuvraj Singh is all set to play in his 300th one-day international (ODI) match against Bangladesh on Thursday.

Here, we have a look at five of his most memorable performances in the format.

ANNOUNCING HIMSELF ON THE BIG STAGE

Playing in just his second international match, Yuvraj announced himself on the world stage in some style as he produced a Man of the Match performance against world champions Australia. In fact, this was his first innings in ODIs as he didn’t get to bat in his first outing against Kenya.

Arriving at the crease with India’s score reading 90-3, Yuvraj produced an attacking knock which put the Men in Blue firmly on the front foot. He would score 84 from just 80 deliveries in an innings which included as many as 12 fours.

Later in the game, Yuvraj completed a stunning catch and then a run-out with a direct hit as India won the match by 20 runs.

HEROICS WITH KAIF AT LORD’S

Chasing a massive target of 326, India were reduced to 146-5 despite a century-stand for the first wicket between Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag.

That was when Yuvraj and Mohammad Kaif joined hands and put together one of India’s most memorable partnerships. The duo added 121 runs in just 106 deliveries as the Ganguly-led side went from being on the verge of defeat to a position from where they had a chance.

Yuvraj was dismissed for a 63-ball 69, but Kaif was on hand to guide India home with an unbeaten 87.

BRILLIANCE DOWN UNDER

Laxman and Yuvraj against Australia [Getty Images]

Laxman and Yuvraj against Australia [Getty Images]

One of Yuvraj’s best-ever knocks in ODIs came in a game against a strong Australian team at Sydney in early 2004.

Coming into bat after India had lost three wickets with just 80 on the board, the left-handed batsman formed a magnificent 213-run partnership with VVS Laxman which is still a record for any Indian partnership in a 50-over game against Australia.

Both batsmen notched up centuries, with Yuvraj scoring 139 from 122 deliveries while Laxman remained unbeaten on 106.

Yuvraj’s knock was so good that despite India losing the game via the Duckworth-Lewis Method, he was named as the Player of the Match.

ON THE TOP OF THE WORLD

One thing that Indian fans yearned for was a victory in the ICC Cricket World Cup, something that had eluded them since 1983.

Going into the 2011 edition of the tournament, hopes were high as India were one of the hosts and had a team capable of going all the way.

There were some question marks raised about Yuvraj’s form heading into the World Cup, but once the competition got under way, the Punjab cricketer was the most impressive player on show.

Be it with bat or ball, Yuvraj was at his best. In nine matches, he scored 362 runs at an average of 90.50 and took 15 wickets at 25.13 apiece. It was no surprise then, that he was named as the Player of the Tournament.

THE 2017 COMEBACK

Yuvraj celebrates his century against England [Sportzpics]

Yuvraj celebrates his century against England [Sportzpics]

Yuvraj has made a few comebacks in his career and the latest one was when he returned to the Indian ODI team after a gap of more than three years in January 2017.

His comeback was a successful one as just in his second match back, he managed to notch up his highest ever score in ODI cricket – scoring 150 against England at Cuttack.

It was a vintage Yuvraj in action as he struck 21 fours and three sixes in a brilliant counter-attacking partnership alongside MS Dhoni after India were reduced to 25-3. The duo added a 256-run partnership with Dhoni also scoring a century.

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