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CT 2017, Match 4, IND v PAK Preview: Eyes on rain gods as India lock horns with Pakistan in marquee clash

India last lost to Pakistan in an ICC event in the 2009 Champions Trophy.

India v Pakistan
India v Pakistan. (Photo by Getty Images)

The stage is set for the all-important marquee clash between the arch-rivals India and Pakistan. Birmingham, Edgbaston, will be roaring when the two teams lock horns in yet another ICC event. Over the last few years, the two teams have not faced one another in bilateral series due to the political cross-border tensions. Hence, it often comes down to the ICC events for the fans to catch up on the high-intensity clash.

The ICC never fails to cash in on the opportunity of having the mother of all battles in the group stages of an ICC event. It serves as the most anticipated game in terms of excitement and also revenues. Coming into Champions Trophy 2017, both the teams have their individual problems to battle out before they head into the big game. The Indian camp has seen a bit of unrest in the recent times due to the apparent coach-captain tussle.

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The last time a report of this sort had surfaced, India had suffered an embarrassing time in the ICC World Cup 2007. The men in green would want to make the most out of the opportunity. On the other hand, Pakistan have slumped to a new low in terms of the ODI rankings. They are ranked below the likes of Bangladesh in the ICC ODI rankings. They would want to improve on that with a spirited show in the tournament.

In the recent times, when the two teams have faced off one another in the ICC events, the Indian team has emerged victorious in the World Cups on all occasions. Coming to the Champions Trophy, the Pakistani team have a better record. Hence, it all evens out before the big game. What could possibly play the spoilsport for the high-intensity game is the poor weather forecast. There are chances of rain on the match day at the venue.

Toss: Pakistan won the toss and opted to field

Virat Kohli: “Big game. I think the side batting second will have pressure. Pretty good wicket, so will stay even throughout. The wicket is nice and hard, so the fast bowlers can come in at any time of the day. Will look to use our main strength, that is batting. It’s just a game of cricket for me anywhere in the world. It’s not about one individual, and all eleven are as good as each other. If anyone takes any of us lightly, they can take the game away. As I said, we need a complete performance and today is no different. Guys feel normal, the preps are normal (about the IndoPak game). The fact that we don’t play them often is there, but their team hasn’t changed much, so we have our plans set in place. The five bowles are Bumrah, Yadav, Bhuvneshwar and Jadeja, Hardik is the all-rounder.”

Sarfraz Ahmed: “I will bowl. Good pitch, won’t change in the second innings as well. As a team, we will hopefully do well. I think India-Pakistan is a special game. Our batting is very much better, so hopefully we will do well. Shadab is in.”

Playing XI:

India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli(c), Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni(w), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah

Pakistan: Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed(w/c), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali

Focus will be on

 Virat Kohli

Team India skipper Virat Kohli has arguably been the best player for the team against the Pakistani team in the recent times. His superlative knock had seen the men in blue upset the Pakistani team in the ICC World T20 last year. Prior to that, it was the same batsman who had hit a masterly ton to set up the Indian win in the encounter against Pakistan in the ICC World Cup 2015. Former cricketers like Shahid Afridi have also tipped Kohli to be the key player that the men in green must be wary of.

Sarfaraz Ahmed

Pakistani skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed will have to lead from the front if the team wishes to see an improved show in the tournament. Their head coach, Mickey Arthur, has rued the fact that the team lacks power-hitting batsmen in the lineup. In this situation, they will need someone in the middle-order who can be the ideal finisher in the lineup. Skipper Sarfaraz is just the ideal kind of batsman in such situations. In the recent times though, he has not got his share of time in the middle.

Rohit Sharma

Indian opener Rohit Sharma will be making his comeback to the national side after a long injury layoff. He did not have the best of times with the bat in the warm-up game. He was dismissed for a single digit score against Bangladesh. Prior to that, he did not feature in the warm-up game against New Zealand. In the IPL, Rohit managed to win the tournament while leading the Mumbai Indians. But his personal performance was nowhere close to his best.

Team Combinations

India

The Indian team have a very tough selection to make. They have the problem of plenty with all their players being in supreme form. All players barring Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma have chipped in with crucial performances in the warm-up game. But those two are also proven match winners on a given day. Skipper Kohli looked pleased with having the problem of plenty and hinted that they will play with 4 bowlers along with all-rounder Hardik Pandya.

In that case, the team is likely to play with three pace bowlers and a spin bowler. Ravichandran Ashwin could be the one missing out on the opportunity. Among the pacers, Mohammad Shami could be rested for the game. In the batting order, Yuvraj Singh and Kedar Jadhav will aid support to MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli in the middle-order.

Pakistan

Pakistan will be keen on getting their combinations right ahead of the key game. Azhar Ali, who has not been very good in the limited overs in the recent past, might retain a place in the opening slot with Ahmed Shehzad. Babar Azam has been the in-form middle-order batsman along with Mohammad Hafeez. The experience of Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed will come in handy in the crucial game.

Shadab Khan, the young leg-spinner could be a good deal on his day. However, considering the strong Indian bowling lineup, expect Faheem Ashraf to retain his place in the lineup. It was his batting exploits that helped Pakistan beat Bangladesh in the warm-up game. In the pace department, they might go ahead with Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, and Hasan Ali.

Stat Attack

0 – Number of fours Virat Kohli has hit off the bowling of Junaid Khan.

1 –  Number of centuries Virat Kohli has scored in England.

4 – Number of matches Pakistan have won against the Indian team in their last 15 attempts.

50 – Batting average of Shoaib Malik against India. This is way higher than his career average which is close to 35.

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