After an enthralling 17-day tournament, we finally have two teams left: arch-rivals – India and Pakistan.
As we gear up for the big game, Sport360 journalists Ajit Vijaykumar and Stuart Appleby offer their thoughts on who will win Sunday’s clash at the Oval.
Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur is confident his side’s group-stage “aberration” against title-holders India will have no bearing when they face their arch-rivals again in Sunday’s Champions Trophy final at the Oval.
When the Asian giants met in their tournament opener at Edgbaston on June 4, India thrashed Pakistan by 124 runs.
Arthur, a former coach of both his native South Africa and Australia, labelled Pakistan’s performance that day as “shambolic”.
But Pakistan, the lowest-ranked side in a tournament featuring the world’s leading eight one-day international nations, bounced back to beat top-seeded South Africa and then held their nerve in a tense virtual quarter-final with Sri Lanka in Cardiff on Monday.
Two days later, again in the Welsh capital, Pakistan produced a brilliant all-round display to hammer previously unbeaten tournament hosts England by eight wickets in a lopsided semi-final.
Now, with left-arm paceman Mohammad Amir returning to the side after a back spasm ruled him out of the England match, Arthur believes there will be no repeat of their woeful pool showing against India when the latest edition of world cricket’s most high-profile contest takes place in London.
“The India game was an aberration,” Arthur told reporters at the Oval on Saturday.
“What we’ve produced after that doesn’t come as any surprise, because that’s how we trained, and that’s what we worked at.
“It was very disappointing to see that go wrong in the Indian game, but… We’ve closed the chapter on that.
“That was an aberration. We’re now moving forward.”
Amir’s return bolsters an already impressive Pakistan pace attack featuring Hasan Ali, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker.
And Arthur believes that if Pakistan can strike with the new ball, they will have the chance to test an India middle order who have hardly been required to bat during this Champions Trophy, with the likes of openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, as well as captain and star No 3 Virat Kohli piling on the runs.
Pakistan started their campaign with a huge loss against India and at that stage, not many would have seen them reaching the final of the tournament.
On the back of some sublime bowling performances, the Men in Green have overcome the odds and have made the Champions Trophy final for the first time. In their last three games, they have restricted South Africa (219-8), Sri Lanka (236 all out), and England (211 all out) to low totals which shows how good their bowling has been.
Hasan Ali has been key to Pakistan’s run to the final and is currently the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 10 wickets to his name. Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has saved Hasan’s overs for the latter part of the opposition’s innings and the strategy has worked like a treat.
When it comes to the batting, the inclusion of Fakhar Zaman in the playing eleven has given the Pakistan team a huge boost at the top of the order as he has got them off to quick starts with the bat. Having made his ODI debut in the game against South Africa, he has a strike rate of 117.94 from three matches.
Well done green caps you guys done it style by winning so easily keep going 1 more game to go ..— Shoaib Akhtar (@shoaib100mph) June 14, 2017
Proud of you Pak team ..
Apart from the loss against Sri Lanka, India have looked very impressive in the tournament – winning the other three matches without having much concern.
On Thursday, in their semi-final clash against Bangladesh, the Men in Blue were utterly dominant as they won the game by nine wickets, chasing down a target of 265 with 59 deliveries remaining.
The form of the top three batsmen – Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli – has been very encouraging for the Indian team. Each one of them has scored over 250 runs in the tournament so far, with Dhawan and Rohit being the top two run-getters with 317 and 304 runs respectively.
The bowlers have also made a big contribution, especially the pace duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah who have been economical and haven’t let the opposition batsmen get off to quick starts.
Date: June 18, 2017 (Sunday)
Time: 13:30 GST, 10:30 local, 09:30 GMT, 15:00 IST, 14:30 PKT
Venue: Kennington Oval, London
TV: UAE – OSN Sports Cricket HD
Full coverage on Sport360.com.
CONFIRMED PAKISTAN XI: Azhar, Zaman, Babar, Hafeez, Malik, Sarfraz (c, wk), Imad, Shadab, Amir, Hasan, Junaid.
CONFIRMED INDIA XI: Rohit, Dhawan, Kohli (c), Yuvraj, Dhoni (wk), Jadhav, Pandya, Jadeja, Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar, Bumrah.
SPORT360 MATCH PREDICTION: With the experience in their team and the fact that they won the match between the two teams during the group stages, India go into the final as favourites. But as we’ve seen on multiple occasions in the tournament so far, you simply cannot rule out Pakistan before the start of a game.