Team India is the favourite to win the ICC final but one can never underestimate Pakistan, who has fought back tremendously to also emerge as worthy opponents. What will it be today, at the finals of this ICC Champions Trophy?
Captains Virat Kohli and Sarfaraz Ahmed are each trying to bolster their side. Incidentally, the Pakistani captain seemed in buoyant spirits on social media while Kohli stayed away from the limelight.
Former Australian pacer Shaun Tait believes that India have an edge over the arch rivals Pakistan when the two sides meet in the Champions Trophy final. "The edge is with India. They will probably go into the game as favourites. Pakistan have played some good cricket and have had some good wins. On a day, anybody can win. But at the moment I will have to give an edge to India, their batting line up is quite stronger," Tait told PTI.
On the bowling line-ups, the former Australian speedster said "At the moment, Pakistan having Hasan Ali in the side, they have a slightly better attack. "India have good balance. They have (Ravichandran) Ashwin as well. They need someone like (Hardik) Pandya to step up, to be the extra bowler to do well. It is close contest. But have to say that Pakistan's bowling is slightly better and India's batting is better."
Gautam Gambhir, also had something to say about the momentous final. Gambhir is of the view that for Pakistani pacers to make an impact in London, help from the conditions is imperative. "For years the India-Pakistan contest has been a battle between India's batting and Pakistan bowling. Earlier, it used to be Shoaib (Akhtar) and Umar Gul vs us and now Amir is their best bowler. Given the flat nature of wickets in the competition so far I don't see any threat for India. May be Amir can do something out of ordinary, conditions permitting," Gambhir told PTI. As far as India's attack is concerned, Gambhir felt that it's time that paceman Umesh Yadav be brought back in the playing eleven.
Among other news, it will be landmark day in cricket viewership as well. Needless to say, the Oval will be witness to one of the most-watched matches in the history of cricket. The two teams are meeting in an ICC event final after 10 years, but for the first time in the final of a 50-over ICC competition. More than 500 million viewers are expected to be tuning in. Interestingly, the 2011 World Cup semi-final attracted 886 million, and the final over a billion.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dinesh Karthik, Mohammed Shami, Ajinkya Rahane, Umesh Yadav.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Ahmed Shahzad, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Mohammed Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Hasan Ali, Mohammed Amir, Rumman Raees, Junaid Khan, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail.
Match Starts: 3 pm IST.
A lopsided opening round contest, which India won by 124 runs made many feel that Indo-Pak contests are fast losing their sheen due to lack of quality in Pakistani ranks.
An Azhar Ali is no match for Rohit Sharma in ODIs and Ahmed Shahzad doesn't have the consistency that Shikhar Dhawan has shown. Babar Azam is a new kid on the block while Virat Kohli, with 8000 plus ODI runs, is destined for greatness.
But Pakistan cricket swings like a pendulum, hovering between brilliant and ordinary, making a mockery of any kind of definitive analysis. And the pace attack of Mohammed Amir, tournament's leading wicket-taker Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan and Rumman Raees have the ability to rewrite history.
And this despite a dismal 2-13 record against India in various ICC tournaments (World Cup, Champions Trophy and World T20), which makes the 'Men In Blue' firm favourites. India's batting line-up, as expected, has fired big time in this Champions Trophy with Shikhar Dhawan (317 runs) and Rohit Sharma (304 runs) topping the run charts. Skipper Kohli, with 253 runs, makes it three Indians in top-5.
Kohli is confident that his middle-order comprising Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya, that has gone untested so far, will come good if 'Law of Averages' catches up with them. "I am sure when Kedar and Hardik will put their hand up when situation arises. I don't think middle order not being tested is something to worry about," the skipper, who himself has been in sublime form had said earlier.
With two quality pacers in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, both of whom have maintained less than five runs per over economy rate on flat decks, India have their bases covered. Ravindra Jadeja's all-round prowess and the balance that Hardik and Kedar bring with their multiple skills, make it a complete side.
Defending the Champions Trophy will also be important as the on-field supremacy could also help India regain some lost ground off the field when the ICC Annual Conference starts a day after the final. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, former captain Aamir Sohail recently said Pakistan have reached the final with the help of external forces, which was interpreted as fixing in matches.