Well sadly no England this weekend but we are truly set up for a fierce finale to the Champions Trophy at the Oval.
If you’d have said at the start of the tournament that our boys wouldn’t make it then you’d want this game as the final, no question. It’s a proper marquee belter on Sunday.
Pakistan overcame England in their semi-final and it was a bit of a thrashing on the board but the lads can have no excuses. I think they were probably right to relieve Jason Roy from the firing line, you just can’t keep letting someone fail and with Bairstow coming in and getting important runs ( even if he got a couple of chances! ) then it was a vindicated decision. They’ve had an off day and the used pitch certainly helped Pakistan bowlers, who are a mix of everything, perform to their best and that was the difference between the two teams.
The Pakistan bowlers are the team’s strength and have shone as we’ve moved through the tournament proper, that’s clear, they can bring so much variation and that can make the difference in the white ball game and their tails are seriously up now. They fielded well at key times to make inroads to the middle order and they deserved their win.
India put Bangladesh away and perhaps it was just one step too far for Bangladesh who at one stage look set to post something very competitive. India got the wickets at the crucial times, as the best sides always find a way to do, and that put the pressure right on Bangladesh.
They then sent Pakistan a serious message with the batters knocking off the runs with just one down, time left and on cruise control. They might be a little wary that the middle order haven’t really had a proper run out yet but it’s not the worst complaint is it when you’re so dominant in winning matches.
So for Sunday at the Oval it’s clear Pakistan will not want a repeat of the opening group game when I thought they were a little in awe of the occasion – it’s such a pressure cooker when these two sides meet and I think that got to them at Edgebaston. I don’t think we will see anything like that now, they will have grown in confidence hugely and be a far more settled tournament hardy bunch now.
It’s their bowling medley, full of difference and guile that they will need to rely on so if they get chance to have a bowl first it might be the best way to get a hold on the game. India you would think will want to bat first and get a big total so it’s game on and the toss will be important but I’d guess that is the way it will set up.
It looks likely ( I’m no weather man though ) to be a scorcher and the atmosphere will be unbelievable, dancing, singing and party time on the sidelines so we want a tight match and I think we will get one to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.
If Pakistan can make early inroads into the Indian batting order and get the lads who have spent most of the tournament on their backsides under a bit of pressure then they have a chance to win – that’s a big ask but it would put some pressure on India that we haven’t seen yet. I struggle to see Pakistan’s batting line up rattling up 300 plus so it will be about restrictive bowling and keeping it tight to have them in the game proper.
I fancied India and England all the way so with our lads out then I’m going to stick with India ( 4/9 ) to edge this final and I’d imagine the man for the big game Kohli ( 5/2 ) will deliver as he always does. It’s obvious to say it but he just relishes this pressure and never seems to be flustered, a huge asset and a magnificent player.
Pakistan will look to rely on the bubbling Fahkar Zaman ( 7/2 ) for a score and he might fair best of their batters whilst Hasan Ali ( 3/1 ) will again be the pick to lead their attack. It’s set up for the best with the ball at this tournament against the best with the bat – it’s going to be a super contest and let’s hope we get a thriller on Sunday.
More than a billion fans will be glued to it they say, it’s certainly up there with the greatest rivalries in World Sport.
Bring it on!
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