Pakistan and England came to the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 with contrasting results in the past few months. While England had built up an impressive head of steam with their positive approach since the 2015 World Cup, Pakistan were, well, Pakistan. They were unpredictable as they battled to cling on to a top-eight spot in the ICC rankings as played some shambolic cricket aside from firing their captain a few months before the tournament.
Sarfraz Ahmed brought with him a renewed energy and vigour in the Pakistan camp. They had the right personnel by the time the tournament took off yet came up second best against arch-rivals, India, in their first game of the tournament. More than the fact that they lost, it was the manner in which they lost that hurt fans. The fielding was terrible to watch and the batting came a cropper against a quality attack. They were expected to be routed by the Proteas and dumped out of the tournament in the next game.
But Pakistan being Pakistan, came up with a refreshing performance in the next game that saw them put Proteas on the brink of elimination. Then came the must win virtual quarter-final against Sri Lanka and they were back to their unpredictable best. Losing their way in a fairly easy chase, Pakistan were uplifted by their skipper and some sloppy fielding and catching from the Lankans. The result? Pakistan were through to the semi-finals.
England, on the other hand, present an altogether different challenge to the Pakistanis. They are among the favourites of the tournament and boast of a batting line up as long as the Great Wall of China. They have all-rounders in aplenty and two superstars in Joe Root and Ben Stokes. Their bowling, despite the loss of Chris Woakes, is steady and penetrative and their spinner (Adil Rashid) is among the top wicket-takers in the past year.
If Pakistan need to beat England they will undoubtedly need to be on top of their game. Here are a few tips they could use in the semi-final clash tomorrow.
#5 Starting well with the new ball
Pakistan will need to bring Joe Root to the crease as soon as possible in the semi-final clash. If the new ball is still shining and moving around, Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan can have a go at the star English batsman. Amir is slowly and steadily climbing back to his best as he proved in the game against Sri Lanka.
Junaid Khan, meanwhile, has replaced Wahab Riaz in the XI and put in some good performances in the two games he has played. If these two can strangle Roy and Hales and build pressure, something is bound to give way, especially with the former's pathetic form. Once they have Root in the middle, it is imperative that they bowl tight lines to him and give as little room as possible to free his arms.
If they can start well with the new ball, the pressure will be on England in front of their home crowd.