Champions Trophy Final: India v Pakistan

Batsman hits ball

It's an all Subcontinent final as India and Pakistan clash in the Champions Trophy this Sunday. 

A short, sharp Champions Trophy that seemed destined to house England - and South Africa or Australia - in the final will instead host the Subcontinent's greatest rivals.

The reigning champions and the tournament's lowest ranked team will relish their second encounter in as many weeks, after clashing at Edgbaston in Birmingham in early June.

India v Pakistan | Sunday, 15 June 2017 | The Oval, London | 11:30

To Win Match
India 7/4 | Tie 35/1 | Pakistan 46/10

India
Having comfortably negotiated a rather one-sided semi-final against Bangladesh, India will face their greatest test this month, against opposition bursting with confidence on the back of major victories over Sri Lanka, the Proteas and Englishmen. The sheer dominance displayed against the Bangladeshis suggests more of the same at The Oval, provided the magnitude of the circumstance doesn't catch up with them.

The pressure of attempting to win a second consecutive Champions Trophy, in conditions largely foreign to a large part of the squad all too used to playing in spin-friendly conditions, is immense. Seasoned stars like Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Shikhar Dhawan must rally around the inexperienced Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and company.

India will highly unlikely make a change to their XI, retaining spinner Ravichandran Ashwin ahead of seamer Umesh Yadav. While all-rounder Pandya's position is probably the most in jeopardy, he'll almost surely be retained. The addition of specialist batsman Dinesh Karthik might have been a consideration, were the top order not proving so dominant.

Dhawan has been key to the collective ascendancy of the batting ranks. The 2017 tournament's leading run-scorer has shared the impetus with fellow opener Rohit Sharma and Kohli superbly. Even if Pakistan to do manage to get him out early, one surmises the momentum won't be hampered due to the depth of the firepower flanking him.

Bowling-wise, fans can look forward to an effective twosome in left-armer Ravindra Jadeja and part-timer Kedar Jadhav again. Jadeja and Jadhav were outstanding in tandem against Bangladesh - and will be eager to dictate proceedings through a large contingent of the so-called middle overs again. The latter has, in some respects, overshadowed frontline spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.

Pakistan
Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed's bid to play down Pakistan's recent success by insisting they have 'nothing to lose', again, can't hide the reality that there is now plenty on the line. Having made it this far, the men in green need to go all the way in order to oblige a loyal, adoring fanbase tested by political turmoil but hungry for a major title.

Tournament victories over South Africa, Sri Lanka and England soon showed that Pakistan are not ODI walkovers, but recollection of their inadequacies in the Group B fixture against Sunday's opposition will remind them of their fragilities. That defeat was three big triumphs ago, though, and they must not let India win the mental game, and have the physical result follow suit.

Their willingness to blood debutant Fahim Ashraf against the Sri Lankans and then fellow rookie Rumman Raees against the English attested to a newfound braveness in selection, which evidently has one eye on a future without recent retirees Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. Ashraf and Raees obliged with decent performances - and what a testament it will be if they both play, and succeed, in the final.

Sunday's finalists have met in the intermediate format of the international game on 128 occasions, with Pakistan victorious in about 60 percent of those. They have only won three of the last 10, though, and have not beaten India at a neutral venue since March 2014. They also lost to the Indians in the 2013 Champions Trophy.

This, too, will be their first visit to The Oval this tournament. The Indians, meanwhile, have played here twice this month. Regardless, Pakistan boast a drive that suggests they'll overcome some obvious odds. Key, of course, will be the contribution of fast bowlers Hasan Ali and left-armer Junaid Khan, who is tipped to be retained ahead of Mohammad Amir.

Verdict: Pakistan 7/4
A tough prediction will see Pakistan continue to ride a very successful string of results, or crash amid an unpredictable couple of weeks begging for a return to the status quo. Probably the latter.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for @Hollywoodbets.net

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