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
When it rains, it pours, and the heavens have opened on both South Africa and Afghanistan so far at Cricket World Cup 2019.
The Proteas must win each of their five remaining games and hope results elsewhere go their way after three miserable defeats and one washout has left with a solitary point.
Afghanistan, meanwhile, have lost three of three and with tournament favourites England and India next up after this, failure in Cardiff is not worth thinking about.
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The biggest prize in cricket is up for grabs this summer as the top 10 teams battle it out in the 2019 ICC World Cup in England.
As fans, it’s not just watching the best players battle it out to look forward to. Fantasy cricket means you have the opportunity to get involved as well.
Dream11 is the official partner of the ICC tournament’s fantasy league. And we are with you every step of the way with our tips and picks to guide you through each round.
Here, we help you navigate through the fourth round which includes five matches.
Stock up on pacers
Good news from Old Trafford, the venue of two of the four games from round five suggests that the possibility of wash-outs is reducing by the hour. That said, sporadic showers and overcast conditions can still be expected.
The conditions are hence favourable to pacers who will attempt to make the most of swing. Naturally, stocking up on top pacers like Jofra Archer, Mohammad Amir and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar could work in your favour.
Whether the pacemen rattle the top-order or clean up the tail, points are guaranteed if the right players are chosen.
At this point, a reminder is due that the likes of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Lasith Malinga should not be considered as Australia and Sri Lanka don’t have a game in this round following a double-game in round four.
Joe Root (10 credits)
A top three run-scorer of the 2019 World Cup will be up against tournament minnows Afghanistan, so this one is a no-brainer. The 28-year-old has notched up 279 runs in the tournament, scoring two centuries in the process.
Root opened the innings against West Indies and should he do it again against Afghanistan, he could go big regardless of which team bats first.
The part-time bowler also removed Shimron Hetmyer and Jason Holder in the same match, providing England the break they needed in the middle overs. With momentum on his side, Root could be a safe pick for this round.
Chris Gayle (10 credits)
Enroute to his 36(41) against England, veteran hitman Chris Gayle showed glimpses of his IPL form as he went after the English pacers. Bangladesh’s bowling attack could very well be the least threatening Gayle has faced in the tournament so far after testing himself against the likes of Pakistan and Australia.
While a thunderstorm could still rock the County Ground, the possibility of a Gayle-storm taking centre-stage is very much on the cards. Given openers David Warner and Aaron Finch made merry in the last game played on this ground, Gayle could replicate such an innings and achieve a strong score.
Kane Williamson (10.5 credits)
The Kiwis have not been tested by a competent bowling attack yet. A quick look at how the South Africa bowlers have performed in this World Cup suggests that this statement could hold true even at the end of this round.
Williamson scored an unbeaten 79 in New Zealand’s seven-wicket win over Afghanistan after registering 40 useful runs against Bangladesh in a well-earned win.
The Proteas are struggling in all departments at the moment and start as underdogs against the Kiwis. The 28-year-old can put on quite a show if he survives Kagiso Rabada’s opening spell.
Budget pick – KL Rahul (8.5 credits)
An Indo-Pak clash usually calls for a big innings from an Indian opener. With Shikhar Dhawan sidelined due to injury, KL Rahul is tipped to open the innings with Rohit Sharma.
The Mangaluru native made a case for his inclusion in the starting line-up with a well-crafted century against Bangladesh in a warm-up game after the openers failed to impress.
A technical batsman like Rahul could exactly be what the doctor ordered for India against a fiery Pakistan pace attack. At just 8.5 credits, Rahul could be a good budget pick.
Jofra Archer (8.5 credits)
Not taking anything away from tournament minnows Afghanistan, English pacer Jofra Archer is in fine form and could absolutely dismantle their top-order.
Having claimed nine wickets in the tournament already, Archer has lived up to the hype surrounding him after England announced their World Cup squad.
Afghanistan’s batting line-up displayed visible frailties against New Zealand’s pace attack and an in-form Archer could absolutely tear them apart.
With the conditions in his favour, expect Archer to be among the wickets in this fixture.
Jasprit Bumrah (9.5 credits)
If Australia opting to face Pakistan without a specialist spinner tells us anything about the pace-favouring conditions and the latter’s weaknesses, a bold claim can be made regarding Jasprit Bumrah’s importance as India take on Pakistan.
The 25-year-old delivered consistently in recent times and has arguably been the best bowler for the Men in Blue in this World Cup so far.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to expect Bumrah to wreak havoc with the new ball and provide India an early breakthrough.
Mohammad Amir (8.5 credits)
The leading wicket-taker of the tournament, when up against one of his favourite opposition, with conditions favouring him is a must-have.
Mohammad Amir has struck fear in the heart of openers with his bowling in this tournament and his five wickets against Australia has set the tone for this high-voltage clash.
Much like his opposite number Bumrah, the 27-year-old will relish the opportunity to handle the new ball. This could also be the first game where India’s tail will be tested and Amir will be prepared to make light work of them.
Mohammad Hafeez (8.5 credits)
One of the most experienced players in the Paksitan side, Mohammad Hafeez can threaten the Indians with ball and bat. After a positive showing against Australia, the 38-year-old will be eager about the prospect of bettering it against rivals India.
Hafeez provides stability in the middle-order and could come handy should Pakistan’s openers crumble against India’s pace attack.
The off-spinner brings an element of surprise with the white ball that can catch the opposition off-guard in the middle overs.
Hardik Pandya (9 credits)
A clean hitter of the ball, a brilliant fielder and a crucial addition to the bowling department – Hardik Pandya is the perfect definition of a Swiss army knife.
The 25-year-old came in at No4 against the Aussies and smashed a quick-fire 48 from just 27 balls, providing India with a crucial push in the middle overs.
Pandya’s mastery of slogging the ball could add about 25-30 runs in the death overs, something that has proved to be handy in the World Cup.
Should India endure a collapse while chasing, Pandya’s resourcefulness can come of aid in steadying the ship. Either way, the all-rounder could turn out to be a good pick for this round.
MS Dhoni (9 credits)
Having passed on the arm-band responsibilities to Virat Kohli, there is a sense of carefreeness and hence danger associated with MS Dhoni’s approach to the game.
The 2011 World Cup-winning skipper scored 113 from just 78 balls against Bangladesh in a warm-up game and has maintained the tempo with his strike-rate. Against the Aussies, Dhoni scored a quick-fire 27, firing at a strike-rate of about 200.
A calm and composed innings can be expected from the 37-year-old against the familiar opposition.
Also, Aussie keeper Alex Carey was involved in four dismissals in Pakistan’s innings Wednesday, with Pat Cummins at the other end on most occasions.
Should Bumrah hit that perfect line just outside the off-stump with his deliveries, Dhoni could be a busy man behind the stumps.
Captain: Jofra Archer
Vice-captain: Jasprit Bumrah