India will lock horns with arch-rivals Pakistan in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 to be held at the Oval on Sunday. Recent history and records favour the defending champions in the final, but Pakistan's pacers can pose a threat to India’s famed batting line-up.
This is the 4th time India have reached the last hurdle of the tournament, and if they win, they will become the first team to clinch three Champions Trophy titles. For Pakistan, who lost to India in their tournament opener, this is the first entry into the finals of the coveted 50-overs tournament.
Both the teams are in tremendous form and for fans living across the India-Pakistan border, the marquee match couldn’t have been more euphoric. Without further ado, let’s take a look at 5 key player battles from the closing game of Champions Trophy 2017:
#1 Bhuvneshwar Kumar vs Fakhar Zaman
While Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s excellent performances did not come as a huge surprise, since he performed well in the Indian Premier League as well, Fakhar Zaman was the package that took everyone by awe.
Zaman, a 27-year old opener who had not made his ODI debut before the Champions Trophy, has become the force Pakistan needed in their dull batting line-up. He has two consecutive half centuries in the last couple of games, and plays the short ball very well.
Although an attacking batsman, the left-hander is similar to Quinton de Kock in approach, whom Kumar had tamed at will. Not to forget, the pacer fancies bowling to left-handed batsmen, just ask Soumya Sarkar of Bangladesh.
#2 Mohammad Amir vs Rohit Sharma
Injury has been a genuine cause of concern for Pakistan’s star pacer Mohammad Amir, who missed the semi-final against England due to back spasm, but the pace spearhead is likely to return for the all-important game.
In the group game between India and Pakistan, Amir had won the first battle as he bowled a maiden up front in the very first over against Rohit Sharma. But the India opener eventually negotiated Amir’s threat in the remainder of his overs.
Even when India had faced Pakistan previously in the Asia Cup last year, with Amir in their playing eleven, Rohit couldn’t get going as he was dismissed by the premier pacer for a golden duck. Rohit is among the top three run getters of the tournament so far, and since Amir has a good record against right-handed batsmen, one can expect an interesting battle between the two.
#3 Shikhar Dhawan vs Junaid Khan
The surprise element in the Champions Trophy this year has been the lack of swing, yet Junaid Khan managed to swing the ball beautifully in the game against Sri Lanka. Although the 27-year old was pumped up before Pakistan’s group game against India, he was not picked in the playing XI.
Since his first game, however, he has been picking up wickets with the new ball. Shikhar Dhawan is the leading run-getter in the tournament thus far with 317 runs, and has been taking the attack to the new ball bowlers. The Indian opener uses his feet to negate the swing and that is what Junaid relies on. This one should be an enthralling battle.
#4 Hasan Ali vs Virat Kohli
If there is one Pakistani bowler who can win the game single-handedly with his bowling, it has to be Hasan Ali. And if there is one Indian batsman who can do the same with the bat, it is Virat Kohli. Hasan has two consecutive three-wicket hauls in the tournament, and was also the player of the match in their last game against England.
Since he bowls as a first change bowler, it is very likely that he will be up against the Indian captain. He is a wicket taking bowler (removed Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes against England) who can be used as a ploy against Kohli. The Indian skipper has remained not out three times in the tournament so far, and also averages an incredible 253!
Kohli is due for a century this tournament, and there can be no better day to bring it up than on the showpiece final. The Pakistanis will be wary of the top ranked ODI batsman and would be highly dependent on Ali to devise ways to contain and dismiss him.
#5 Jasprit Bumrah vs Babar Azam
Jasprit Bumrah has been India’s most economical bowler with both the new and old ball. The 23-year old has bowled with an economy of 4.3, which is the best in the tournament. On the other hand, Babar had been out of touch in the tournament but got into the groove in the last game against England.
A six down the ground off the bowling of Adil Rashid oozed class and he got into form at the right time before the finals. Not to forget, in his last 11 ODI innings, the 22-year-old has hit five centuries and a half-century and can be a force to reckon with on the big day.
It will be interesting to see what tricks India’s death bowling specialist comes up with to contain Babar.