About the Match
This is not a contest many had expected, though most would have secretly hoped for it, to be the final of this edition of Champions Trophy. Pakistan have not been a major force in ODI cricket for the last couple of years, and after they were completely outplayed by India in the group stage most experts and fans had written them off completely, but credit to them for staging an exceptional comeback and playing some amazing cricket that now they will face India in the final of Champions Trophy 2017. This match will be played at The Oval on 18th June. India and Pakistan will face each other in a global tournament final for the first time since 2007 World T20. In this hotly anticipated matchup, India would be looking to successfully defend their title, whereas Pakistan would want to cap their exceptional turnaround in this tournament by winning the trophy.
India entered this edition of the ICC Champions Trophy as the defending champion and surely played like a champion side in their first game of the tournament against Pakistan. India batted superbly, with all of their top four scoring fifties, and then bowled with lots of venom and discipline to kill the Pakistan chase even before it could get started.
In their second game though, against Sri Lanka, despite the batting coming good again and the bowlers having a good total to work with, the flair and uninhibited strokeplay of Sri Lankan batsmen proved to be too much, and India suffered an unexpected loss. This loss meant that India’s last group game, against South Africa, was a virtual quarter-final, and the only way for India to make the semis was to get a win.
With such pressure and the knockout nature of the game, India brought out their A game and beat South Africa as comprehensively as it gets.
All the bowlers bowled superbly to restrict South Africa to a sub-par total and then the batsmen, led by the ever consistent Shikhar Dhawan and captain Virat Kohli, made short work of the chase and led India to yet another semi-final in an ICC global tournament. In the semi-final, the Indian juggernaut continued as they brushed aside Bangladesh with ease. Bowlers restricted Bangladesh to a sub-par total and then the batsmen chased down the total with ridiculous ease.
India has chosen a pretty experienced squad for this tournament and the recent ODI form of almost all their batsmen has been good. Captain Virat Kohli has batted well against Pakistan, South Africa, and Bangladesh, and his return to form bolsters Indian batting even further. The bowlers all have been in good rhythm recently, and this bodes well for the final.
India is the defending champion and one of the better ODI teams around, and going by the recent ODI form and the way they beat Pakistan in the group game, they have a very good chance of defeating Pakistan again and lifting the trophy. The only worry for India would be complacency and the ability of their bowlers to perform under pressure, and they would strive hard to guard against both.
Pakistan has had a really poor last couple of years in ODI cricket. Their lack of awareness of the modern game was painfully highlighted in their first encounter against India, where they gave away a huge total through some hopeless fielding and wayward bowling, and then could never get going in the chase. The bowlers who did well for them were not fit enough to sustain a full ODI innings and the batsmen who scored some runs were too slow while scoring them.
Such performances were surely not going to win them many games in this tournament, and so they overturned everything they did in the first game to such an extent in their next three games against South Africa, Sri Lanka, and England that it appeared as if it was a new Pakistan that was playing these games. Pakistan was electric in the field – diving, making saves, the energy was visibly high, and they bowled with a lot of purpose to restrict all three of South Africa, Sri Lanka and England to totals that were attainable for their less fancied batting.
Against South Africa, Pakistan batsmen played sensibly, read the situation well, and were in complete control of the game when rain arrived and gave Pakistan a win based on DLS calculations. Against Sri Lanka however, Pakistan was in a real spot of bother and were in the danger of missing out, but their captain Sarfraz Ahmed stood up and played a brilliant captain’s innings, and along with some help from a very cool and composed Amir, took his team home. In the semi-final, against England, Pakistan displayed their best batting performance of the tournament with all of their top four looking good in the chase.
Not just the batting, however, in the semi-final, Pakistan were at their absolute best with the ball and in the field as well and beat England in an absolutely comprehensive manner. This victory means that Pakistan, against all odds and shattering all sorts of preconceived notions, is going to play in the final of this edition of the Champions Trophy.
Pakistan is a very unpredictable, flamboyant and aggressive side, and predicting their performances can be very tricky. They displayed what they can achieve when they play with the right attitude in their wins against South Africa, Sri Lanka and England. They would just be hoping that they are able to play the same sort of cricket on Sunday and end this fairy tale of a turnaround by lifting the trophy.
India has always dominated Pakistan in ICC events, including during the group stage of this tournament, but the Champions Trophy is the only tournament where Pakistan has got a win against India, and this must provide some sort of comfort and optimism to the Pakistan team. In addition to this piece of history, Pakistan is also playing some amazing cricket at the moment and has risen above all sorts of distractions to make the finals. On the other hand, India appears to be a well settled and highly professional outfit. They seem to have almost all bases covered, they have a vastly experienced squad, they are playing at familiar surroundings – India have played at The Oval during group stage - and have been in very good ODI form recently, and all these factors give them a very slight upper hand in this contest.