Who do you think will win at Edgbaston?
After a dull start, the Champions Trophy came to life with a couple of upsets. And all the upsets came from the subcontinental teams.
Pakistan started it by defeating number one-ranked South Africa, Sri Lanka followed it up by humbling defending champions India and then Bangladesh pulled off an outstanding chase against New Zealand to give the tournament its best match.
The most interesting bit is that three teams from the subcontinent have made it to the semi-finals of a tournament held in early ‘summer’ England conditions.
Here, we look at each side ahead of England vs Bangladesh (Wednesday) and India vs Bangladesh (Thursday).
What do you think will happen this week?
The best team in the tournament became not only the first team to qualify for the semi-finals but also, remained undefeated in Group A. Their new brand of cricket is both entertaining and effective, with their batting unit being full of exciting hitters. It is clear to see their intent from the word go – going hard at the ball whatever stage of the game. England were reduced to 35-3 against Australia but that didn’t deter Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes from adopting the aggressive route.
‘When in doubt, take the aggressive approach’ seems to be mantra for England. In addition to the destructive batting, the hosts have the bowling depth for English conditions, with quicks like Mark Wood hitting the deck hard and Adil Rashid bowling tight lines. England are the team to beat in this tournament.
There isn’t a dull moment when the Pakistan team is playing cricket. They have the bowling to bring the team back from the dead and their batting has the ability to squander the advantage seized by their bowlers. As for their fielding, it might have improved a little over the years, but it’s still miles behind where other modern-day teams have reached. Like most teams, even Pakistan bowlers haven’t found swing with the new ball in England but unlike most teams, their bowlers have discovered reverse-swing, and therefore have been the most potent in the death overs.
While the new template of ODI batting works fine against the rest, it’s prudent to flip the tactic while batting against Pakistan. The best chance of making runs against them is when the ball is new. Pakistan’s batting, however, has the tendency to undo all the good work done by the bowlers. Senior players, like Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, haven’t stood up. For Pakistan to beat England in the semi-finals, Sarfraz Ahmed’s men are going to have to create a perfect storm – which is unlikely given their inconsistency and calibre of opposition.
Defending champions started the tournament in style but slipped up badly against Sri Lanka. It was in the do or die game against South Africa, though, when they brought their A game to the field. In the first two matches, India’s fielding left a lot to be desired but it was their fielding that made the difference in the virtual quarter-final. Indian openers, barring the game against the Proteas, have given the team a good platform in which to build from. The new mandate of going about one-day internationals is to take it easy in the first 30 overs whilst keeping wickets in hand and therefore treating it is as a T20 contest after that.
Every Indian batsman, with the exception of Kedar Jadhav, has scored crucial runs and that allows the team to play an uninhibited brand of cricket with the bat. It’s almost certain that India will continue to treat Hardik Pandya as the fifth bowling option. While it worked against South Africa, it might put Indian bowling under the spotlight – should they meet England in the final. The same thing happened when Sri Lanka chased down India’s total of 322 with relative ease in the group stages.
The fact Bangladesh have reached the knockouts of two consecutive ICC 50-over tournaments highlights the upward curve in their cricketing fortunes. The biggest change in their approach has come in the form of their bowling resources, for now the focus is to field pacers instead of spinners. Their over-reliance on spin in the past made them a formidable team at home but mere pushovers abroad. Since that’s changed, the team has started downing some good teams.
Their batting has also finally come out of the shadows of their big three – it’s no longer all about Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan, for the likes of Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir Rahman and Mahmudullah have started making winning contributions regularly. While the team is looking good, it might be a little tough to go past India in the last four.
England have played some excellent cricket in the ICC Champions Trophy so far, having qualified for the semi-finals with three wins from their three matches in the group stages.
This is hardly a surprise considering England’s resurgence in the one-day game since their first round exit at the ICC World Cup in 2015.
Whenever England have needed someone to step up with the bat or the ball, they have found a player up their game and make a telling contribution.
An example of this being in their previous match against Australia when they found themselves 35-3 while chasing a target of 278, Ben Stokes and captain Eoin Morgan put on a brilliant counter-attacking partnership to win the game for their team.
One area of concern for the England team was the form of Jason Roy and they have decided to replace the Surrey opener with Jonny Bairstow.
A lot of people had written Pakistan off after their 124-run defeat against India in their opening match of the tournament. Since then, Sarfraz Ahmed and his team have come back strongly to make their way into the semi-finals.
Sarfraz, himself, was at the centre of Pakistan’s win over Sri Lanka in a virtual quarter-final on Monday. He scored an unbeaten 61 as he, along with Mohammad Amir, guided the Men in Green to victory, chasing down a target of 237 after being reduced to 162-7 at one stage.
This followed a brilliant bowling performance in a win over South Africa, the number one ranked ODI team in the world.
After the match against Sri Lanka, Pakistan skipper Sarfraz called England a world-class team and said that his side will look to play positive cricket on Wednesday.
“England is a very good team, a very, very good team. If you are playing a world-class team, definitely, you play more positive cricket, so we will do so against England,” he said.
Pakistan have made two changes with Shadab Khan and Rumman Raees replacing Faheem Ashraf and Mohammad Amir in the playing eleven. Amir is sitting out of this encounter due to back spasm.
Sarfraz with the best possible tribute to Javed on his 60th birthday— Hassan Cheema (@mediagag) June 12, 2017
Date: June 14, 2017 (Wednesday)
Time: 13:30 GST, 10:30 local, 09:30 GMT, 15:00 IST, 14:30 PKT
Venue: Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
TV: UAE – OSN Sports Cricket HD
Full coverage on Sport360.com.
CONFIRMED ENGLAND XI: Bairstow, Hales, Root, Morgan (c), Stokes, Buttler (wk), Ali, Rashid, Plunkett, Wood, Ball.
CONFIRMED PAKISTAN XI: Azhar, Zaman, Babar, Hafeez, Malik, Sarfraz (c, wk), Imad, Shadab, Raees, Hasan, Junaid.
SPORT360 MATCH PREDICTION: England are favourites going into the match, but the way Pakistan have already proved people wrong in this tournament so far, you can’t rule them out.