On Sunday, India and Pakistan will meet in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy, and when it comes to international cricket, rivalries don’t get any bigger.
The two countries are as passionate about the sport as Theresa May and Boris Johnson are about crushing the morale of Britain’s poor, and have given us some of the most scintillating encounters in modern cricketing history – think Javed Miandad’s last-ball six in Sharjah, or the famous bowlout at the ICC World T20 in 2007.
Recently the clash has been something of a one-sided affair, with India winning 13 of the last 15 matches between the two in ICC events, and under the guidance of the sulky but gifted princeling Virat Kohli the men in blue look a frightening outfit. Maybe that’s why they’re 4/9 favourites to take home the trophy.
But Pakistan, perhaps the most mercurial of all the major cricketing nations, can never be underestimated, and are more than capable of pulling off an upset.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s side don’t boast anything like the all-round virtuosity of their neighbours, but possess a cohort of bowlers who, on their day, can trouble even the best batting lineups in the world. Hasan Ali is a thrilling master of swing, while the meteoric Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan have tested on a regular basis the fluid-retention capacity of even the most courageous batsman’s bladders.
But perhaps Pakistan’s best hope lies in the form of the ever-so-humorously named Fakhar Zaman. If they are to get anything from this game, they need their batsmen to stand up and be counted, and Fakhar is undoubtedly just the man for the job. He blitzed the English in the semi-final, having already notched 50 against Sri Lanka in the previous round, and should be ready to rise to the big occasion on Sunday.
If Fakhar performs, his side have a decent shot at getting one over India.
For that reason, backing him to top score for his team and Pakistan to win the match at 11/1 is a smart punt on the Champions Trophy final.
* All Odds Correct at Time of Posting