India defeated Pakistan in their first ICC Champions Trophy 2017 match    Getty Images
India defeated Pakistan in their first ICC Champions Trophy 2017 match Getty Images

When Umesh Yadav removed Hasan Ali, no one India, England, Bangladesh, Mickey Arthur, Australia would have expected Pakistan to rise above themselves and face India in the final of ICC Champions Trophy 2017. Did that match really happen? Did India really humiliate Pakistan by 124 runs at Edgbaston? If yes, is it the same Pakistan team? If yes, how did Pakistan manage to make way to the final, at The Oval? Aamer Sohail believes external forces have brought Pakistan here. No, that is not the answer. His comment is as vague as Pakistan’s journey so far. Live cricket scorecard: India vs Pakistan, CT 2017 final

After the walloping, rain came to Pakistan’s rescue. DLS method reduced South Africa’s target and Pakistan stayed alive. In the next match, Sri Lanka dropped 3 catches off Lasith Malinga, one of which was an absolute dolly that Thisara Perera had difficulty holding on to and Sarfraz Ahmed survived. Before that he was spared of a run-out chance. The match would have ended then and there, and Sri Lanka would have played England in semi-final. The result was otherwise, and Pakistan whammed favourites England in the semis, only to face India in the final.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka did not drop any catches against India and beat them. South Africa suffered the same fate they had against Pakistan. India then flattened Bangladesh in the semis, only face Pakistan in the final.

Believe it or not, but India and Pakistan are in the final, their first ever in an ICC ODI tournament.

Team composition

Ravichandran Ashwin injured his right knee, and was seen struggling to run during the practice sessions. The physiotherapist did attend him, but India cannot afford to march into the field with wounded ammunition in a game like this. For that, they have Umesh Yadav who had taken 3 for 30 against Pakistan. If not him, there always is Mohammad Shami waiting to unleash himself.

Likely XI for India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin/Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah

Mohammad Aamer is back. He had sustained back spasms before the semi-final, making way for Rumman Raees. Otherwise, there is no need for Pakistan to toy with their winning combination.

Likely XI for Pakistan: Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Imad Wasim, Mohammad Aamer, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan

Weak links

Pakistan have taken second-most number of catches in the tournament. Granted, this sounds like an achievement, but they can be mind-numbingly abysmal in the field otherwise.

India have a chink in their armour as well. Yes, they got a little carried away in the field against Pakistan, but it was their bowling that invited downfall against Sri Lanka. In a quest to defend 321, none of their bowlers, barring Bhuvneshwar Kumar, could take a wicket.

In the thick of things

Fakhar Zaman blasted consecutive fifties. Before that, on his debut, he helped Pakistan lay solid foundation with his 31. If anything, India will have to be wary of his counter-punching. One bad ball and it will teleport to the fence.

Hasan Ali, without a shadow of doubt, is the star of the 2017 edition. He is the leading wicket-taker, bagging 10 scalps at 17.20. His quick action making the ball skid off the surface will keep Indian batsmen on their toes.

India have positives in abundance. Shikhar Dhawan (317 runs) and Rohit Sharma (304 runs) ace the leading run-scorers chart. However, if Virat Kohli (253 runs) scores a hundred and the ominous openers fall early, the former will end up as the best batsman.

Game plan

India and Pakistan both have been equally threatening in the middle overs. Indian pacers, Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah, strangle the life out of the batsmen in the first 10 overs. India, some or the other way, lose control from overs 15 to 25, but spectacularly comeback in the middle overs to keep the opposition hopeless in the death. Same has been the case with Pakistan. In fact, they are a touch better than India given the ageing ball produces more reverse-swing for their fast bowlers. India, on the other hand, thrive on array of bowling changes.

It will be India s batting vs Pakistan s bowling and Pakistan s batting vs India s fielding.

Quote unquote

Everyone is aware of the kind of talent Pakistan have in their team. On their day they can beat any side in the world. We are quite aware of that but at the same time neither are we too intimidated nor are we too arrogant to what we are doing. It s importance to maintain the balance of being confident on your own skill and what you are doing as a team. Virat Kohli

What we ve produced after that doesn t come as any surprise, because that s how we trained, and that s what we worked at. It was very disappointing to see that go wrong in the Indian game, but We ve closed the chapter on that. That was an aberration. We re now moving forward. Mickey Arthur

The last laugh

Pakistan have not yet ran out of the luck potion. As unbelievable it is for our senses that they have not been sloppy in the field of late. The oppositions, maybe due to the external forces that Sohail was referring to, have been dropping catches and giving reprieves to Pakistan.

This, exactly this factor may decide the fate. And if it continues, we may see Kohli s cover-drive being malfunctioned, with the ball instead chopping on the stumps off an inside edge; we may say Dhoni missing stumping chances; we may see Ravindra Jadeja mis-fielding; and whatnot. And if it does not continue, India will annihilate Pakistan at The Oval, like they did two weeks ago. You never know. This is India vs Pakistan.

Squads

India: Virat Kohli (c), MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Kedar Jadhav (wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Umesh Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah

Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Haris Sohail, Fakhar Zaman, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Fahim Ashraf, Rumman Raees, Mohammad Aamer, Junaid Khan, Shadab Khan

TIME: 10.30 Local Time | 15.00 IST