Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
India vs Pakistan | Saturday 19 March | Eden Gardens | 16:30
The most eagerly-anticipated game of this year’s World T20 will see India take on Pakistan in front of 66, 000 raucous fans at the iconic Eden Gardens; with the host’s continued participation in the tournament hinging on whether or not they can claim victory on Saturday.
Can India get their tournament back on track or will Pakistan end the host’s hopes of making it into the semi-finals of the showpiece event? Let’s take a look.
To Win Match
India 9/20 | Draw 35/1 | Pakistan 18/10
The pre-tournament favourites are staring down the barrel. If they lose on Saturday evening at their fortress in Kolkata, we could well see a few heads role. They opened their account on a rank turner in Nagpur where they were simply unable to cope with the trio of Nathan McCullum, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi who claimed nine wickets between them.
Kane Williamson took a massive gamble leaving out his two best bowlers in Tim Southee and Trent Boult, instead opting for a three-pronged spin attack. The result underlined the fact that India aren’t as comfortable against spin as many around the world would have believed – especially on dry, dusty surfaces.
What the Indians will be looking for moving forward is a better performance from the likes of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan who looked in decent touch coming into the tournament. I also don’t think Yuvraj Singh should be anywhere near this side, especially with Ajinkya Rahane waiting in the wings. There are also question marks surrounding Suresh Raina who hasn’t been able to reproduce the sort of form with the bat that saw him become a global star of T20 cricket.
The one positive that the Indians can take away from their wretched performance on Tuesday was their bowling. Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravindra Jadeja gave a good account of themselves – mind you I would have probably found some success on that Nagpur wicket. The real plaudits have to go to Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah. The two seamers were absolutely magnificent against New Zealand, returning economy rates of 6.66 and 3.75 respectively.
The entire attack will need to be on song against a Pakistani top order that surprised most cricket supporters, myself included, against the Bangladeshis. If they err ever so slightly from the lines and lengths, the likes of Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi will take the game away from the Indians.
After saying that Ahmed Shehzad isn’t good enough to perform at this level of competition in my last preview, he goes and puts in a world class performance against a dangerous Bangladeshi side. The Lahore native blitzed his way to a 39-ball 52, laying the foundations for a thumping 55-run win. The win puts the Pakistanis in the driving seat in Group 2 along with New Zealand.
While the men in green have always possessed one of the better T20 bowling attacks, their batsman have hamstrung them a bit in international competition. On Wednesday, however, they showed none of the fragility that’s hampered them in the past. Shehzad, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez were simply unstoppable.
Afridi in particular was back to his brilliant best. Boom Boom helped himself to a 19-ball 49 as he helped push his team’s total beyond the 200 mark, and ultimately out of reach of an average Bangladeshi side.
If the batsman can carry their form forward into this game, Pakistan are massive runners to cause an upset in Kolkata on Saturday. They possess a formidable seam attack fronted by Mohammad Amir who has burst back onto the international scene like he was never away. He will be supported by Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz who both give Pakistan that X Factor. Their spinners aren’t too shabby either. Shahid Afridi, Imad Wasim and Shoaib Malik are all capable of keeping scoring down and building pressure on opposition batsmen.
Verdict: Pakistan 18/10
I think the Pakistanis are more than capable of causing an upset here. The Indians will be smarting following their loss to the Black Caps, with none of the players or coaching staff leaving the hotel on Wednesday. Pakistan will smell blood, and are no doubt in buoyant mood following their performance against Bangladesh. Back them at 18/10.
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