England v India, Champions Trophy, final, Edgbaston June 22, 2013

Dhoni v Cook, and other key battles

Some match-ups that could define how the England v India Champions Trophy final pans out

James Anderson v India openers
The result of this opening gambit could play a significant role in defining which way the final swings. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have been the best opening pair in this tournament and their success has allowed India to confidently raise or chase any target. Rohit's technical fluency complements the fearlessness of Dhawan. One crucial element behind their success is that the pair has been disciplined in the first 10 overs. So far they have been tested by both pace as well as short-pitched bowling. They have used the tools of patience and soft hands to counter those two threats. But Rohit and Dhawan are yet to come across an opponent with Anderson's bowling intellect, and his ability to breach the batsman's defence with cunning swing. On numerous occasions Anderson has set batsmen up by bowling away swingers, before getting the next delivery to swerve in and vice-versa. But his victims are still drawn into the trap. If the conditions are overcast, Anderson will be the key factor. The challenge for the India openers will be to read Anderson's hand, and judge which balls to leave and which to play.

Jonathan Trott v India
Jonathan Trott's job is to frustrate bowlers, create tedium with his defensive batting and thereby allow his partners in the middle and lower order to better build the innings. More than any other England batsman, Trott will once again be the thorn in the side and India's bowlers will have to pluck him out fast. Despite all the criticism over strike rates, Trott has been England's best batsman in this tournament. Incidentally he was the most successful batsman during England's 3-0 victory over India in the 2011 ODI series. Ravindra Jadeja has got him the most number or times (three), but the pace and the seam movement of Ishant Sharma could prove decisive, too, in thwarting England's most consistent ODI batsman.

Virat Kohli v Steven Finn and Stuart Broad
Although Virat Kohli has hit just one fifty till now, against Sri Lanka in the semi-final, he can be a dangerous player when it comes to big matches. In the past he has got a World Cup century in the tournament opener, and hit crucial cameos in the 2011 World Cup final and last year's World Twenty20. Once he gets his eye in, Kohli is India's most fluent batsman. So it should be an engrossing duel between Kohli and Steven Finn and Stuart Broad, who will rely on pace and bounce and tempt him to go hard at his strokes.

Ravindra Jadeja v England lower order
Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara and Jos Butler are impact batsmen, possessing all the tricks taught at the modern school of batting. So they can adapt quickly to any situation in the final overs and dominate the bowlers in the final 15. However Jadeja will prove to be a far stiffer challenge than those these batsmen have faced till now. Jadeja has the ability to spin the ball as well suffocate the batsman with his accurate, straight lines. Jadeja rarely gives the batsman any width, but never ceases to surprise with his skiddy deliveries and varying speeds, and the lethal arm ball. In this tournament he has even outbowled R Ashwin and England would do well to be watchful against him.

MS Dhoni v Alastair Cook
This will not be the first final MS Dhoni leads India to in an ICC tournament. In contrast, this is Alastair Cook's first big final. Experience counts. But Cook has shown in the recent past that he is a leader by example - take the India Test series last year, where his dominant batting and admirable leadership helped England to a historic victory. Cook relies on discipline. Dhoni back instincts. This is a battle of will against spirit.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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