The clash that has been gathering pace for months before the 2019 ICC World Cup even started is finally upon us as arch-rivals India and Pakistan prepare to renew their rivalry in Manchester on Sunday.
With bilateral cricket relations between the two neighbours non existent, their meetings have become too few and far in between. Hence, Sunday’s World Cup clash between the two sides has assumed greater significance and a sellout crowd is expected to take Old Trafford by storm.
It is a contest which India have historically dominated with the Men in Blue emerging triumphant in all six previous World Cup encounters.
RAIN THREAT AT OLD TRAFFORD
The 2019 World Cup is turning into a damp squib with as many as four matches failing to yield a result due to rain. Th emost number of washed out games in World Cup was two, but that figure has already been beaten in the ongoing tournament in two weeks.
Both India and Pakistan have already seen one fixture apiece abandoned without a ball being bowled and they will be hoping that the same isn’t the case on Sunday. The weather forecast isn’t too promising with showers and cloudy skies expected throughout the day and the organisers should have their task cut out in trying to fit in some play.
Tickets for the match were supposedly sold out just hours after being opened to the public but that could all go down the drain should the weather fail to relent on Sunday.
MERCURIAL PAKISTAN IN DESPERATE NEED OF A WIN
While Pakistan want to break their World Cup duck against their arch-rivals, a win on Sunday is important to keep their semi-final hopes alive. The Men in Green have lived up to their ‘unpredictable’ tag in the tournament and have shown the good, the bad and the ugly in their brief campaign so far.
Their only win in the tournament so far has come against heavy favourites England where they looked like world-beaters. However, they were woeful in their campaign opener against Windies where they were bowled out for just 105 runs and were extremely sloppy in a 41-run loss to Australia in a game which was theirs for the taking.
With their clash against Sri Lanka washed out, Sarfraz Ahmed and his men now have a mountain to climb in the remainder of the campaign if they are to finish in the top four. Their abysmal net run-rate means that they don’t really have much maneuvering room left and a defeat against India could very well close the doors on their semi-final hopes.
STEADY INDIA LOOK TO GET BACK INTO RHYTHM
While Pakistan have oscillated between the stupendous and the ridiculous, India have looked like title contenders in their short campaign so far. Virat Kohli and his men were highly efficient in a six-wicket victory over South Africa before they really flexed their muscle in a 36-run win over Australia.
Their formidable showings in the two wins should put the Men in Blue in a good spot for the Pakistan clash despite their most recent outing against New Zealand being washed out.
However, they do have some concerns following an injury blow to opener Shikhar Dhawan. With the left-hander set to be sidelined for a significant spell, India will need to rejig their batting order for the Pakistan clash with KL Rahul set to move into the opener’s slot.
The burning question for India is whom to bring in for the No4 batting slot with Rahul moving up the order. Kohli has a straight choice between Vijay Shankar and Dinesh Karthik or he could take a more unorthodox route of bringing in Ravindra Jadeja as an all-rounder while promoting Dhoni to the No4 slot.
India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal.
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Sarfraz Ahmed (c and wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali
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