Pakistan v India: ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final – live! – The Guardian
Morning everyone, and welcome to the big one. Yes, it’s Fathers’ Day here in Britain. In fact, this really is the big one – the final of many fans’ dreams, and of every administrator’s. It’s the first time a major cricket tournament has ever culminated in the biggest local derby in the whole of sport.
It’s India v Pakistan. It’s also superstars v journeymen, overlords v underdogs, well-oiled machinery v something more mercurial, and, broadly speaking, batsmen v bowlers. Pakistan have Azhar Mahmood, who only retired five minutes ago, as their bowling coach, and he has a theory about this. “My theory is: batsmen win you games, bowlers win you tournaments.” It was true when Pakistan won the World Cup under Imran Khan, blowing away a hefty England batting line-up.
It was also true when India and Pakistan, featuring some of the players we will see today, met in the Under-19 World Cup final in 2005-06. Pakistan batted first and scraped together only 109 off 41 overs. But then they reduced India to 9-6, and ended up winning by 38 runs. Pakistan’s captain that day was Sarfraz Ahmed, who leads them out this morning. He’s already made one good move in the past 24 hours, entrusting his baby son to his opposite number with the gloves, MS Dhoni. He’s a keeper.
The last eight matches in the Champions Trophy have been won by the team batting second, so the best thing that can happen this morning is for India to have to bat first. If Sarfraz does put them in, the risk he’ll be running is that the Oval pitch is a road and India pile up 400, about half of them to Virat Kohli, who has yet to be out once he has got off the mark. But it’s a risk worth taking, in the hope that Pakistan’s incisive left-armers, and intriguing non-spinning spinners, can do some early damage. The English weather, knowing when it’s beaten, is unlikely to get in the way.
It’s No.3 in the world against No.7, say the ICC rankings. But then they think South Africa are the tops. In reality, it’s the world’s best one-day team against a side that (cliche alert) can beat anybody on their day. England were favourites to lift this trophy until Pakistan saw them off, very comfortably, on Wednesday. Pakistan are in much better shape than when they lost heavily to India two weeks ago. There’s a decent chance that tonight they’re gonna party like it’s 1992. But India are the favourites. Viral Kohli has yet to be out in this tournament once he has got off the mark. The man deals only in ducks and dominance. To infinity and beyond.