ICC has selected an interesting panel of experts for the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy 2017. Giants of the sport like Graeme Smith, Brendon McCullum, Ian Bishop, Sourav Ganguly, Ricky Ponting, Nasser Hussain, Kumar Sangakkara and Brendon McCullum had promised detailed analysis of all the action from the 22-yard strip. The panel also predicted their semi-final line-up, and not a single member gave a glimmer of hope to Pakistan and Bangladesh in the top four. Contrary to expectations, the two subcontinent teams sailed to the knockout stage (another one, Sri Lanka, almost made it), stunning South Africa and Australia respectively. Hence, Sarfraz Ahmed’s unit will take on Eoin Morgan’s formidable side in the first semi-final on Wednesday.
The semi-final line-up is not merely unexpected: it is also closely connected to history. Bangladesh was once a part of East Pakistan before they attained Independence in 1971. Pakistan, on the other hand, was a part of India in the pre-Independence era. Interestingly, all of them (united) were ruled by England, who have maximum chances of lifting the title according to cricket pundits.
If we take into account the first semi-final at Cardiff, it throws more unusual facts. England and Pakistan will be clashing for their first semi-final meeting in the history of the tournament. This will also be their first face-off in an ICC ODI event after 14 years. The last time England and Pakistan locked horns in a marquee ODI tournament was in 2003, in the eighth edition of ICC World Cup.
Recap of the 2003 World Cup encounter:
England, led by Nasser Hussain, opted to bat at Cape Town. However, they were put on the mat courtesy a disciplined bowling attack from Pakistan. Inzamam-ul-Haq’s side restricted England to 118 for 5 at halfway stage. Barring Shoaib Akhtar, every bowler curbed the run flow and dominated the proceedings. Nonetheless, riding on fifties from Michael Vaughan and Paul Collingwood (both went onto lead in future), cameos from Alex Stewart and Andrew Flintoff rescued the side to post 246 for 8 in 50 overs.
Chasing a respectable total (remember, this was 2003), Pakistan still fell short by a whopping 112 runs. England seamers exploited the conditions and folded Pakistan’s innings for 134 in 31 overs. James Anderson (4 for 29) and Craig White (3 for 33) haul mauled the Men in Green as Pakistan continued to be Pakistan. They led from the front in the first innings, only to surrender meekly in the chase. Ironically, these things continue to remain a feature of Pakistan cricket till date!
Shoaib did two things in the match that deserve a mention: first, he broke the 100-mph barrier with a ball to Nick Knight; secondly, he top-scored for Pakistan despite batting at No. 11.
5,225 days: Pakistan and England meet after a humongous gap in any major ICC ODI competition ever since that day. Since then, a new format has been added to the game. Not only this, three World Cup (2007, 2011 and 2015) and four Champions Trophy (2004, 2006, 2009 and 2013) editions have been played as well.
Pakistan and England’s last meeting in an ICC event was in the third World T20, in 2010. Interestingly, this encounter was also won by England (6 wickets).
A total of 95 players have been used by the 1992 World Cup winners since their last meeting against England in an ICC 50-over tournament. On the other hand, England have used 92 (third-most along with India) during the same period.
Both Pakistan and England have also undergone change in leadership 11 times during the mentioned span of time.
After going through such numbers, one may dwell upon reasons that prevented clashes between England and Pakistan in marquee ODI competitions. Barring the fact that the two teams never featured in the same group in the preliminary rounds, form and team composure can also be two crucial points. Pakistan were nowhere close to their best in the 2007 and 2015 World Cups. They performed above expectations in 2011, only to falter in the semi-final. Talking about Champions Trophy, they fared well occasionally. They reached the last four in 2004 and 2009.
On the other hand, England made it to the Super Eights in 2007. They followed it with two miserable outings in the next two editions, getting eliminated in the quarter-final and group stage respectively. In Champions Trophy, since 2003, they reached the final twice (2004 and 2013). However, they fell flat in 2006 and were shown the door in the 2009 semi-finals.
Interestingly, both Pakistan and England reached the last four of any ICC ODI event post 2003 twice. Both instances came in Champions Trophy 2004 and 2009.
Team composition has also been a reason which has deprived the cricket fraternity of an England-Pakistan match in a big event from the shorter format. Nonetheless, Morgan’s men have been the talking points post their drubbing in the last World Cup. From Pakistan’s perspective, they have fallen down the cliff regularly only to perform in all cylinders in the ongoing championship.
England lead Pakistan 49-30 in 81 ODIs. In Champions Trophy semi-finals, Pakistan remain winless from three encounters. From England’s perspective, they have a better record (2-1).
To Pakistan’s advantage, they won their last game versus England at the same venue (Cardiff) which will host the semi-final.
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