Both sides come into the summit showdown off the back of three victories out of four in the round-robin stage. In the two previous matches between the two sides in the tri-series, the honours were shared equally with each side picking up a win – and comfortably easing past Zimbabwe in the other matches.
PAKISTAN LOOK TO CONSOLIDATE NO1 RANKING
Before the start of the series, Australia had the chance of leapfrogging the No1 ranked Pakistan in the ICC rankings. That opportunity vanished with Pakistan’s 45-run win over the Aussies last Thursday. With England and India currently locked at 1-1 in their three-match T20 series, it means that Sarfraz Ahmed’s men will hold on to their crown irrespective of Sunday’s outcome.
However, the men in green will want to consolidate their top-dog position and extend their current six-point lead over second-ranked India as well as their seven-point lead over the third-ranked Aussies.
SHAHEEN AFRIDI GIVES SARFRAZ SELECTION HEADACHE
Pakistan’s win over Australia in the dead-rubber clash has given Sarfraz a problem of plenty. Teenage pacer Shaheen Afridi impressed in only his second T20I outing for Pakistan by picking up a three-wicket haul which included the scalps of Aaron Finch, D’Arcy Short and Glenn Maxwell.
With plenty of pacers at his disposal, the Pakistan skipper is faced with a tough choice between playing Afridi or sticking to the experience pairing of Hasan Ali and Usman Khan. Pace spearhead Mohammad Amir sat out the side’s first two games in the series and will lead the attack in the final in all probability.
That would mean Sarfraz will need to leave out one of Hasan Ali, Afridi or Usman in the final and it will definitely not be an easy decision.
AUSTRALIA LOOK TO SEAL FIRST TROPHY OF LANGER ERA
Australia arrived in Zimbabwe following a crushing 6-0 whitewash at the hands of England in the limited-overs clashes. Finch and his men have given a much better account of themselves in the African nation although they still look far from the finished article. With the skipper rediscovering his form and Glenn Maxwell finding his touch too, the Aussies are starting to become a much more potent unit.
With pacer Billy Stanlake in devastating form with the new ball, Justin Langer’s men will fancy their chances of a first series win since the ugly aftermath of the ball-tampering scandal.
It was a day of record-breaking feats in England’s T20 Blast on Friday with Joe Denly and Daniel Christian playing blinders for their respective teams.
England all-rounder Denly became the first man in history to score a century and pick up a hat-trick in the same T20 match during Kent Spitfires’ six-run win over Surrey.
Denly opened the innings for Kent and slammed a 63-ball 102 before being dismissed in the penultimate ball of the innings. He then used his part-time leg-spin to deadly effect at the Oval when Surrey were cruising at 135-3 in chase of Kent’s 173-6.
The 32-year-old dismissed Rikki Clarke, Jack Smith and Mathew Pillans off consecutive deliveries in the 13th over to turn the game on its head. That three-wicket burst proved to be too much for Surrey in the end as they fell six runs short of Kent’s total.
In another T20 Blast clash, Australia all-rounder Daniel Christian slammed the joint second-fastest ton in the history of the competition to lead his Notts Outlaws side to a 58-run win over the Northants.
The Notts Outlaw skipper took only 37 balls to get to the three-figure mark and remained unbeaten on 113 as his side posted a mammoth 219-6 in their 20 overs. Christian’s innings included a staggering nine sixes.
His 37-ball ton in the competition is second only to compatriot Andrew Symond’s 34-ball effort for Kent all the way back in 2004. New Zealand’s Scott Styris had also registered a 37-ball century in the competition for Sussex in 2012.
The wicketkeeper-batsman might have ended up on the losing side on Friday as England completed a five-wicket win in the second T20, but he did manage to conquer another important milestone in the form of his 500th international appearance for India.
Dhoni became only the third Indian player in history after Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid to attain the feat.
His India and Chennai Super Kings team-mate Suresh Raina was the first to chime in with the birthday wishes on Saturday.
Walking out of your 500th international match & gracefully walking into the blessed day of India, when a legend like you was born! Wish you a very Happy Birthday brother @msdhoni 🎂You have been my inspiration & will always be! I cherish all our good times! #HappyBirthdayMSDhoni pic.twitter.com/YinwMNSAgz— Suresh Raina (@ImRaina) July 6, 2018
“Walking out of your 500th international match & gracefully walking into the blessed day of India, when a legend like you was born! Wish you a very Happy Birthday brother @msdhoni ??You have been my inspiration & will always be! I cherish all our good times! #HappyBirthdayMSDhoni,” the left-hander wrote on Twitter.
Raina later posted another tweet with a picture of Dhoni smeared with birthday cake on his face.
“Happy birthday to the legend @msdhoni. There can be nobody like you,” Raina wrote in the post accompanying the image.
In a video posted by a fan account, Dhoni can be seen cutting the cake in the presence of the Indian team, wife Sakshi and daughter Ziva.
The likes of Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Shikhar Dhawan, Jasprit Bumrah, Siddarth Kaul, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Kaif were not far behind in wishing the former skipper and ‘Captain Cool’ on his birthday.
Wish you a very happy birthday, @msdhoni and congratulations on playing your 500th International match. May you continue to give joy and happiness to people around you and beyond. pic.twitter.com/gIUkaKxgsW— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) July 7, 2018
Wishing a very Happy Happy Birthday to the legend and Best Finisher of the game @msdhoni Bhai 🎂🎂🎂🎂— Rashid Khan (@rashidkhan_19) July 7, 2018
“Wish you a very happy birthday, @msdhoni and congratulations on playing your 500th International match. May you continue to give joy and happiness to people around you and beyond,” Tendulkar wrote in his Twitter post.
Who is the most awesome cricketer in the world?— Siddharth Kaul (@sidkaul22) July 7, 2018
1) MS Dhoni
Happy Birthday Mahi Bhai ❤️ @msdhoni pic.twitter.com/Wrx7VZDGmm
Dhoni made his debut for India all the way back in 2004 and has since gone on to play 90 Tests, 318 ODIs and 92 T20Is for the country. He is one of the most successful skippers in India’s history and had led the side to the 2015 ICC World Cup and 2007 World Twenty20 titles under his stewardship.