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All to play for in battle of nerves - India v Pakistan - Match Preview

Sarfraz Ahmed (left) and Virat Kohli with the Champions Trophy before the final
Sarfraz Ahmed (left) and Virat Kohli with the Champions Trophy before the final

Match details:

Final: India v Pakistan, Kennington Oval
18th June, 10:30 local, 09:30 GMT

The ICC Champions Trophy tournament has reached its pinnacle with arch-rivals India and Pakistan locking horns with each other at Kennington Oval on Sunday in what will be a high octane clash.

Not many had given Pakistan the chance to reach the final considering the massive defeat that they suffered in the opening game against India with many of the former players slamming the attitude of players. They did replace Ahmed Shehzad with Fakhar Zaman, who provided the much needed momentum at the top with scores of 31, 50 and 57 that came at brisk pace and Pakistan are yet to lose a game after his inclusion. Suddenly, the batting looks formidable as seen during the semi-final game against England but the real turnaround came from Hasan Ali, who has snared three wickets in every game after going for 70 for one against India in nine overs.

Mohammad Amir is expected to return back to the line-up after missing the semi-final due to back spasms, though his replacement Rumman Raees did not do a bad job either. Lot of focus will be on the pace trio of Hasan, Amir and Junaid Khan while the team management might be contemplating to include Faheem Ashraf back in the place of Shadab Khan to strengthen their batting further.

Barring their slip up to Sri Lanka, India have been in red hot form this tournament and are favourites to defend their title once again but it depends on how they cope up against the unpredictability from Pakistan. With Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli among runs, India have been top order heavy and early wickets can make them vulnerable considering the most of the middle order have not spent enough time.

The last time these two teams met the game was evenly poised before Yuvraj Singh swung into India's side while the pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have been clinical. With Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami up in the reserve, India do posses a formidable attack. With Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya sealed their places, the debate will continue over Ravichandran Ashwin, who has picked a solitary wicket in the two games this tournament. Also the lack of left handers might prompt Kohli to play an additional seamer.

Road To Finals:

Both India and Pakistan finished Group B at first and second position respectively. Pakistan defeated hosts England by eight wickets to make it to the final while India trounced Bangladesh by eight wickets to reach the top two position for the second time in two years.

This will also be Pakistan's first appearance in the final of the Champions Trophy tournament and will also be the first time these two teams are meeting each other in an ICC tournament final following the famous 2007 World T20 tournament.

Spotlight On:

Hasan Ali - He has been instrumental in Pakistan's turnaround this tournament. With wickets in the middle, he has dented opponent's momentum as seen in the game against England where he accounted for Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan and later Ben Stokes. He will once again be the key performer for Pakistan against the famed Indian batting line-up.

Shikhar Dhawan - Another top performer for India and leads the tournament leading run scorer table with 317 runs from four games and is closely followed by his opening partner Sharma with 304 runs. He entered the tournament after an injury to Lokesh Rahul and grabbed his position with two hands with consistent performances throughout and also became the fastest batsman to cross 1,000 runs in Champions Trophy during the game against Sri Lanka.

Probable Team:

India - 1. Shikhar Dhawan, 2. Rohit Sharma, 3. Virat Kohli (captain), 4. Yuvraj Singh, 5. MS Dhoni (wk), 6. Kedar Jadhav, 7. Hardik Pandya, 8. Ravindra Jadeja, 9. Ravichandran Ashwin / Umesh Yadav, 10. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11. Jasprit Bumrah

Pakistan - 1. Fakhar Zaman, 2. Azhar Ali, 3. Babar Azam, 4. Mohammad Hafeez, 5. Shoaib Malik, 6. Sarfraz Ahmed (wk) (captain), 7. Imad Wasim, 8. Shadab Khan / Faheem Ashraf, 9. Mohammad Amir, 10. Junaid Khan, 11. Hasan Ali

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