Some deliberate whether it the biggest sporting contest in the world but one thing is for certain, India vs Pakistan at Edgbaston is going to be rife with noise tomorrow.
Riddled with politics, the contest is one that has not been played as much as it should have over recent years, but India hold the prouder record between the two and go into their tournament opener as obvious favourites.
In their last meeting at the 2015 ICC World Cup, India won comprehensively, but Pakistan actually hold the more favourable Champions Trophy record with two wins to India’s one. However, India sit comfortably in third in the ODI rankings, with Pakistan’s sporadic form leaving them in eighth, making them the worst ranked side in this year’s tournament.
You would fancy India in Birmingham. While Pakistan possess some outstanding individual talent in areas, India excel in all departments. Fans will go into overdrive as Virat Kohli walks to the crease and we expect him to match the occasion.
There have been suggestions that his form in England struggles to match that of in India, but the heir to Sachin Tendulkar possesses such skill with the bat that we would always back him to score the highest individual total in the Indian side, especially at 5/2.
Alongside him, they have the power of Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj Singh and technical nuance of Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan. And then of course, you have the problem of MS Dhoni; the master of innovation.
Pakistan’s last outing in England was a meagre one, losing 4-1 as they posted over 300 just once in Cardiff. The players are there, the likes of opener Azhar Ali, Shoaib Malik and Babar Azam, but very rarely do the stars click in unison, which means Pakistan often struggle to post competitive totals, a trait that has seem them slip to eight in the ODI rankings and only just able to clinch a place in this competition.
If you were to choose one of the men in green to score big, it would most likely be Babar Azam who averages an impressive 55.08 in ODIs. He’s around 7/2 to be their top scoring Batsman.
As for the bowling, India once again prevail. Ravichandran Ashwin is the king of spin, but Ravindra Jadeja offers more than ample support with his left arm off-spin and the latter often picks up bags of wickets. The two are deadly, but there is no rest for the opposition batsmen as the seamers can include specialist death bowler Jasprit Bumrah, the tidy Bhuveneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya or the pacey Mohammed Shami.
Pakistan were once famed for their bowling, but India are more powerful there too. While Pakistan possess some danger in the lightning pace of Wahab Riaz and swing of Mohammed Amir. The latter is an immaculate bowler who you would always tip to nab the most wickets for Pakistan.
You just never know between these two. It’s such an occasion that often the form is crashed out of the stadium in the early stages. That said, India are a side of such class and if Kohli plays as much of a significant role as you would expect him to on the big stage, it has to be India’s to lose at 4/9.