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Clash of opposites in Sunday’s final

Under sunny skies, India can showcase its brand of winning cricket; if it’s cloudy, England will feel its best chance to win a world trophy has arrived

Clash of opposites in Sunday’s final - Cricket News
Indian and England will go head to head at Birmingham in the much awaited finals of the ICC Champions Trophy.
On the eve of the final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, two teams that come into the game with form, confidence and a settled method, faced diametrically opposite expectations from their respective fans. England was repeatedly reminded that it had lost all four big finals it had been in – World Cups in 1979, 1987 and 1992 and the Champions Trophy in 2004. India, the current 50-over world champion, was aware that summer rains were not the only expected thing in England in June 30 years on from its World Cup win, give or take a few days.

India’s fans, who were expected to match the home team’s supporters man for man at Edgbaston on Sunday (June 23), will settle for nothing less than an emphatic win. Four wins from as many games has shown that the team has the essential ingredients needed for One-Day International success: a consistent opening combination, a middle order waiting to explode, quick bowlers for all seasons and spinners who can attack and defend.

England, for its part, has been equally impressive, sticking to its method to prove critics wrong. The top order, dominated by Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell, operate at its own pace, not hurried by the scoreboard or the opposition bowling. On subcontinental pitches, where 350 runs from 50 overs is the norm rather than the exception, this approach may come a cropper, but in a tournament where the bowlers have held their own, England has been impeccable.

The question before England, as it takes on India, is whether to treat the final as just another game, or as completely different from the group phase. If England plays the occasion rather than the opposition then it will find it difficult to stick to the game plan. India’s bowlers will ask questions that others have failed to, and they like nothing more than a docile opposition. If England doesn’t look to force the pace, Bhuvneshwar Kumar will hold a line and Ravindra Jadeja will get through each of his overs in two minutes or less.

India’s strength in this tournament has been its ability to adapt to the conditions on any given day. Admittedly, save for the semi-final at Cardiff, the pitches have been dry and hard, and this has ensured that India has not had to deviate too much from its original method. The fact that it has been able to field the same eleven through the tournament is a testament to the variety of skills the group brings to the park. There’s genuine pace, inventive slow bowling, sharp fielding and at least seven batsmen capable of winning the game singlehandedly.

That said, the conditions have not allowed for a trademark Indian batting performance yet. And, if the rain stays away at Birmingham, the final could be the ideal place to show off India’s batting ability. Mahendra Singh Dhoni was hopeful that his batting unit got a chance to push the envelope. “Well, it all depends whether we are looking to bat first or bat second. A lot of that depends on the weather and what kind of a wicket it is,” said Dhoni on the eve of the match. “But still, as I said, it's very important to deal with the first ten overs, and then after that once you get a very good platform, then look to capitalise in the middle overs and have wickets in hand for the last ten or 15 overs. Like we do in each and every game, we don't go in with a fixed target in mind. We look to get off to a good start, and then every five to seven overs we review as to what a good target can be on that wicket.”

What England will take heart from is its recent record against India in home conditions. India has managed just two wins from its last ten ODI outings in England. Flipping the coin, England has won exactly the same number of matches in its last ten games in India. On Sunday, Edgbaston will be awash with the tricolor, with Indian-origin fans packing the stadium. There will be a ‘home’ feel to the game, and the weather could well determine who is most comfortable. Under sunny skies, India will look to showcase its brand of winning cricket; if it’s cloudy, or raining, England will feel its best chance to win a world trophy has arrived.

Teams (likely)
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav.
England: Alastair Cook (capt), Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler (wk), Stuart Broad, James Anderson, James Tredwell, Tim Bresnan.

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