A nail-biter is on the cards on Sunday when the defending champions India will face the unpredictable Pakistan at Edgbaston. It has been two years since the arch-rivals have locked horns. The two giants met in the 2015 World Cup where India got the better of their opponents, winning by 76 runs. A lot has changed over the last two years, the team combinations, player performances and much more.
It will be interesting to see the team combinations ahead of their clash, focusing on their strengths and weaknesses. For India, the opening batsmen Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan will play a crucial role as both are well versed with power-hitting techniques and to post a mammoth total or chase one, these two have to be effective in powerplay overs.
India will go with a formidable batting middle order, with the likes off captain Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh. The ability to score quick with aggression and keep the scoreboard ticking without playing irresponsible shots are major advantages of this middle order. But with Yuvraj suffering from illness, in-form Dinesh Karthik can be given a chance to prove his worth on big stage.
After a very long time in one-day cricket, India have two fine all-rounders in their side, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja. Pandya scored a blistering 54-ball 80 against Bangladesh in warm-up match and with Jadeja coming back to his own after an off-colour IPL, it’ll be a huge challenge for the Pakistan players to face them.
Lastly, India’s pace battery pose a huge threat for Pakistan as all three pacers, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav are in exceptional form bowling with pace, accuracy for long hours and taking wickets at regular intervals. Bumrah with his ability to bowl full length yorkers in death overs and Bhuvneshwar with his full length deliveries will be effective from India’s perspective.
Umesh has had a promising IPL season and Test series with the ball, his consistency and a three wickets in previous warm-up match could guarantee him a place in Sunday’s big battle.
Pakistan on the other hand, fully rely on their experienced middle-order and their pace attack which can trouble the Indian batsmen if the bowlers are able to execute their plans to perfection. Pakistan’s dashing opening pair, Ahmed Shahzad and Azhar Ali will look to find their magical touch and create pressure on the Indian pace attack in first ten overs.
Pakistan can prove to be destructive between 15-40 overs as their middle-order comprising of classy stroke player Babar Azam, experienced pillars Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez and captain Sarfraz Ahmed can help them chase down totals and set targets. Azam can score massive on his day and has an aggressive approach to his game.
Malik and Hafeez play the role of match winners as they build their innings slowly and pace up their innings according to the match situation.
A young Pakistan all-rounder, Fahim Ashraf can make his place in the playing XI after showing his skills with the bat in their warm-up match against Bangladesh. He hammered 65 off just 30 deliveries to take Pakistan to the finish line. He can also be used as part-time bowler in the middle overs.
Another main aspect of Pakistan is their pace bowling. They will rely on Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz unsettle the Indian batting order with swing and accuracy with the new ball. Junaid Khan and Hasan Ali can also prove to be effective as both have the talent to hit the deck hard and in English conditions the bounce factor can cause worry for the Indian batsmen. Junaid also picked up four wickets in the warm-up match against Bangladesh but was expensive in his nine over spell, giving away 73 runs.
It will be thrilling contest between the arch-rivals who will try their level best to clinch their first game of the tournament as the winner will certainly go ahead with a huge psychological advantage.