Dashing India against dogged England
June 23, Edgbaston
Start time 1030 (0930 GMT)
Two years ago, India went to England to play the most anticipated set of matches between the two teams. By the time India reached their last game, England was sick of them and they were sick of England. The tour gave them nothing but defeat, and the fans could hardly wait for the end. At the end of this short and sharp trip, however, India are finally up against England, two of the best sides of the tournament and deserving finalists.
India have played sparkling cricket so far, England have been pragmatic, it makes for a good match-up, but it is highly unlikely the fans or the teams will be left asking for more. If England win, they won't even get a day to celebrate; they play New Zealand in a meaningless Twenty20 on Tuesday. If India win, they will most likely be taking the Champions Trophy to the West Indies for an even more meaningless ODI tri-series.
We have been given a brief window then to relish what is at hand, rendered briefer by the role rain is likely to play with no reserve day in sight. And there is enough to relish. India are at their most aggressive: five specialist bowlers, positive batting in a tournament that has left almost everybody else circumspect, sprightly fielding and forceful captaincy. England are at their most practical: the batsmen are doing just enough for the conditions in question, and their bowlers - attaining form and fitness at the right time - are good enough to make a match of any total above 200 on pitches that are not featherbeds.
A day before the final, questions arise that classically accompany a match between a side that has waltzed its way through to the final and the other that has had to will its way through the roadblocks. Will India be undercooked should conditions and bowlers conspire against them? Suresh Raina has faced 10 balls in the tournament so far, MS Dhoni 26 and Dinesh Karthik 84. Will England's professionalism come second best - as it has tended to happen in big cricket events - to the freer spirits? Will the teams tamper with their trusted philosophies?
If India win through their opening batsmen or if England win chasing 220, it will be well deserved all right, but the real excitement lies in India winning after recovering from 10 for 3 or England gunning down 320. And in the rain staying away.
Form guide (most recent first)England WWLWW
In the spotlight
Shikhar Dhawan and Jonathan Trott are the two prime candidates for the Player-of-the-Tournament award. Dhawan's impact - two centuries, a 48 and a fifty - has been bigger than Trott's - two fifties, no hundred - but a match-winning effort in the final could still decide it.
Neither of the Ravis was a natural selection. The conditions were supposed to favour Irfan Pathan more than Ravindra Jadeja. And Ravi Bopara was just a replacement for Kevin Pietersen. Now Jadeja is the second highest wicket-taker in the tournament with an economy rate of 3.51, and Bopara has played a couple of important cameos to go with his part-time work with the ball. They will be important in the final: Jadeja will have continue bowling his 10, Bopara will need to provide England that final kick.
India are highly unlikely to disturb their winning combination, and while England might want to go the same route they could have two temptations. James Tredwell has done enough to challenge Graeme Swann's status as the best ODI spinner in the country, but will England be able to overlook Swann's experience should he be fit? The only other change could be Tim Bresnan playing ahead of Steven Finn because Edgbaston can assist reverse swing. However, it will be difficult to leave out Finn against any Asian side.
England 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 James Tredwell/Graeme Swann, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn/Tim Bresnan
India 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Dinesh Karthik, 5 MS Dhoni, 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Umesh Yadav
Pitch and conditions
The big concern is what is overhead. It rained a day before the final, and the weather is expected to play some part during the match, but will it do enough to affect what have been almost subcontinental conditions at Edgbaston? The pitch for this match hasn't been used previously, but If it retains enough moisture, the ball could seam around crazily as it did in the Cardiff semi-final.
Stats and trivia
- India and England have played only three knockout matches against each other. India won the 1983 World Cup semi-final and the 2002 tri-series final, both in England, but England won the 1987 World Cup semi-final in Mumbai.
- India have not lost a single wicket in the mandatory Powerplays this Champions Trophy. Their smallest opening stand has been 58, against Pakistan at Edgbaston.
- England have made it to four finals in ICC ODI tournaments without winning any of them.
"I've never seen them as relaxed as we have been leading up to a big game. But I'm looking around in the guys' eyes and I know they're ready to play."
Alastair Cook on his team's state of mind
"The English team is a very good team, especially the bowlers, and what we are positive about is the fact our top order, they have done well, and also the fact they have played some of the best bowlers in world cricket so far in the tournament. So I think they are quite well prepared for the English bowlers."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo