English fans will know how much this game means to the supporters of India and Pakistan: It’s the equivalent of the Ashes and for many, this is the biggest match in world cricket.
The 132nd ODI between these two countries takes place at Old Trafford on Sunday and India will start as the favorite after a strong Sportsbook to the 2019 Cricket World Cup tournament. Can Pakistan upset the odds or will Virat Kohli’s men march on?
Speaking of odds, India is out in front and can currently be backed at -250. The figure leaves Pakistan trailing at +200 and Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men have drifted since Wednesday’s defeat to Australia.
We’ve seen in the recent past, most notably in the ICC Champions Trophy Final of 2017, that the form book can sometimes be ignored when these two meet, but should we simply be looking at the favorites this time?
We’ve known for some time that India will be without Shikhar Dhawan for this match and that is an undoubted blow. The left-hander top-scored with his 17th ODI ton in the win over Australia and it’s a gap that KL Rahul will try to fill.
This is an area that Pakistan can target: India’s regular top three of Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli is thought to be the strongest in world cricket, so Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and the rest can now look to make early breakthroughs.
India’s explosive batting is rightly talked up but sometimes, their bowling can go under the radar. Since the last World Cup, Jasprit Bumrah has emerged to become one of the best death bowlers in world cricket and he’s backed by a quality seam attack. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has also enjoyed success in English conditions while the selectors have plenty of options to back up their new ball pair.
In the spin department, Ravichandran Ashwin may be overlooked these days but India can now call on the mystery spin of Kuldeep Yadav together with the consistent leg spin of Yuzvendra Chahal. Kuldeep has taken just one wicket in two games and could make way for Ravi Jadeja but, whatever side India picks, we suspect the bowlers will hold the key to this game.
Against Australia, a number of Pakistan batters got into the 40s and beyond but couldn’t kick on. Someone will need to push those scores past three figures so it’s the job of this Indian bowling attack to keep the Pakistani batsmen in check.
While the focus in much of the press has been on the loss of one man, India should have more than enough to cope with the absence of Shikhar Dhawan. Mohammad Amir’s swing and seam can trouble batsmen first up so we may need to see India’s batting depth come through this time.
But it’s that impressive Indian bowling attack that should seal the points. We don’t focus on them enough at times and with Pakistan unable to compile those big, match-winning scores, we expect Bumrah, Chahal and company to take full advantage.