In the final fling, India hopes to pack a punch

Pakistan’s turnaround has been remarkable. It had picked itself up from the canvas, coach Mickey Arthur noted on the eve of the game. As India seeks to defend the title it won four years ago, Kohli will want to deliver the knockout blow.

Virat Kohli (left) with his Pakistan counterpart Sarfraz Ahmed at The Oval in London on Saturday.   -  AFP

Only two weeks ago, India and Pakistan met in Birmingham, producing the sort of contest that has now become familiar. India was dominant and thrilling; Pakistan, for all its desire to jettison its ‘20th century’ approach to one-day cricket, was a shambles. And yet a fortnight later the two teams meet again, this time in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy.

INDIA'S ROAD TO THE FINAL

PAKISTAN'S ROAD TO THE FINAL

In the interim, India has been the India of recent vintage, crushing South Africa and Bangladesh. Pakistan has simply been the Pakistan of forever: in crisis one moment, inspired the next. After that hiding at Edgbaston, Sarfraz Ahmed's men have beaten South Africa and then stunned England in the semifinals.

 

The eyes of the cricket world will be on the Oval on Sunday as the neighbours clash in the final of a major tournament for the first time since 2007. India will be confident, having battered Bangladesh two days ago at Edgbaston. The top three have all scored runs this tournament, not least Virat Kohli, who in his first global competition as captain stands one game away from the trophy. India’s bowlers have been hugely effective, taking wickets in the middle overs to strangle opponents.

India v Pakistan — Where players attain hero status

Between overs 11 and 40, they have claimed 19 wickets from the three group games, more than any other side. Pakistan’s bowlers, however, are only second, having claimed 18 wickets over the same period. Against England, they demonstrated that they could get the ball to reverse swing early, and on a grippy Cardiff surface knocked the host out. Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan and the returning Mohammed Amir—who is likely to replace Rumman Raees—will be a handful again. Hasan Ali in particular has been splendid, taking 10 wickets, providing vital breakthroughs. This is India, though, and Pakistan will have to banish the demons of defeats past: in the last six matches in ICC events, it is India which has triumphed.

Sarfraz’s Indian connection!

R. Ashwin had taping on his knee in training and although the injury did not appear serious, Kohli has Umesh Yadav, who took three for 30 against Pakistan in the opener, to call on.

Pakistan’s turnaround has been remarkable. It had picked itself up from the canvas, coach Mickey Arthur noted on the eve of the game. As India seeks to defend the title it won four years ago, Kohli will want to deliver the knockout blow.