The Champions Trophy 2017 boils down to the final two teams, Pakistan face India on Sunday 18th June at The Oval, London.
This is the biggest rivalry in international cricket and is a dream match for billions around the world.
As a Pakistan fan, I certainly was not expecting this fixture for the final. Pakistan’s One Day International record has not been good over the last few years.
They only just qualified to play in this 8 nation tournament, as a result of their low ICC ranking. So expectations of Pakistan were not so great.
In Pakistan cricket there is only one certainty, predict the unpredictable! This logic has baffled journalists and cricket commentators at home and abroad.
So how did Pakistan make it to the final? They started poorly against a very strong India team losing by 124 runs. However Pakistan dug deep and went on to beat South Africa by 19 runs, Sri Lanka by 3 wickets and England by 8 wickets.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s positive, assertive captaincy has been a breath of fresh air. The side has responded to him very well, with overall improvements in all departments batting, bowling and fielding.
The influence of the coach Micky Arthur has also been encouraging.
In this tournament, Pakistan, ranked eight in the ICC ODI rankings have definitely punched above their weight. With the focus of the international cricket world on this epic final, Pakistan have made their mark.
The outstanding batsmen for Pakistan have been the talented Left-hand opener Fakhar Zaman who has a total of 138 runs at an average of 46.00, with 2 fifties and the reliable Azhar Ali scoring a total 169 runs, at an average of 42.3, with 2 fifties.
The stand out bowlers have been Hassan Ali, the tournament’s leading wicket taker, with 10 wickets, closely followed by Junaid Khan with 7.
— ICC (@ICC) June 14, 2017
India in comparison have a stronger batting record with openers Rohit Sharma scoring 304 runs and Shikar Dhawan 317 in the tournament, Virat Kohli follows up with 253. Their main bowling threat is Bhuvneshwar Kumar with a total of 6 wickets.
India are a very competent team however are beatable as shown by Sri Lanka in the group stages.
In the final, as favourites the pressure will be on India to win but the mercurial Pakistan can cause any team an unexpected upset.
Best option for Pakistan, if they win the toss, is to bowl first and put pressure on the Indian batsmen with early wickets, limiting the score.
Adding the Champions Trophy to the 1992 World Cup and 2009 T20 World Cup would be a delight for Pakistan and its millions of fans worldwide.
It’s just another game, let’s enjoy the electric atmosphere win, lose or draw.
Best of luck to Team Pakistan!