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June 22, 2013
Alastair Cook believes his England side are ready to create history and shed their unwanted record as they prepare to meet India in the final of the Champions Trophy.
England are the only side involved in the tournament never to have won a global ODI competition. They have reached the finals of three World Cups (1979, 1987 and 1992) and one previous Champions Trophy (2004) but have always finished runners-up.
While Cook accepted that India deserve to go into Sunday's final as favourites, he expressed confidence in his team's ability to prevail and admitted victory would rank as highly as any achievement in his England career to date.
"I'm fully confident in our guys that we can upset India here," Cook said. "India are unbeaten and have played some very good cricket. But I'm fully confident in our guys. The lads have delivered two excellent performances under pressure in the last two games and I can see no reason why we can't do it tomorrow.
"We've been playing some good cricket and it's an opportunity we're desperate not to let go. The lads are ready. 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.
"We haven't won a global 50 over tournament, as everyone keeps reminding me. So we're desperately keen to try and change that. It would be a great achievement if we can win and one which we will cherish. There's certain moments in your career where you remember more than others, and if we can win this then I think that would be right up there."
It will be of little consolation if they fall at the final hurdle, but England can take some satisfaction from their progress to the final.
After years of modest ODI form, England have developed a side that has shown they can challenge in global tournaments. While they were well-beaten by Sri Lanka, they have subsequently won what amounted to two knock-out games in succession and can look ahead to the 2015 World Cup knowing that the vast majority of this squad should still be available.
England's near misses
England have also progressed without two of their best players. Kevin Pietersen has missed the whole event, while Graeme Swann has played just once.
It appears Swann may well not play in the final, either. Not only did Cook reiterate the view that Swann will not be risked if there is even "a slight doubt" over his fitness, but James Tredwell's fine form has alleviated any need to rush Swann back. Indeed, there are many who feel that Tredwell deserves his place on merit, whether or not Swann is available. Swann bowled "a few balls" in the nets on Saturday and was described as "recovering well" by Cook.
Tim Bresnan is also available having missed the semi-final to witness the birth of his first child. Bresnan was replaced for that game by Steven Finn, who took the vital wicket of Hashim Amla, but England have huge respect for Bresnan's skills with bat and ball and he could well return.
A new pitch has been allocated for the final but, in common with most modern pitches at Edgbaston, it is still likely to aid spin and, perhaps, reverse swing. Having been under the covers for much of the last couple of days, it may also prove helpful to the seamers for the first hour. As of Saturday afternoon, the groundstaff at Edgbaston were very happy with the state of the outfield and reported no drainage problems. But the weather forecast is not promising.
A shared title - the scenario if no result is possible on Sunday - would be an unsatisfactory conclusion to a successful tournament. While it would, in theory, end England's winless run in global ODI events, would do so in hollow fashion. The ICC insist there is no precedent for having reserve days in the Champions Trophy - there actually was a reserve day in 2002 - but it does seem a shame an extra day could not be found for the final, at least. While England and New Zealand begin a largely meaningless two-match T20I series on Tuesday, the make-up of the sides is vastly different.
There are those who suggest that, so often does the weather intervene in England and Wales, that they are not suitable venues for such competitions. It is an understandable reaction, but perhaps the positives of England and Wales hosting events - full houses for games between neutral countries and enthusiastic multicultural crowds - should not be dismissed. It does rain in other countries, too. The 2007 World Cup final, in the Caribbean, was interrupted by rain, while the 2002 Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka was shared between India and Sri Lanka after poor weather interrupted play on two successive days.
Cook suggested that England could take confidence from their recent home record against India, but such analysis could equally work the other way. While it is true that India failed to win a single game on their 2011 tour, England have won only five of the last 20 ODIs between the sides going back to the start of 2008. What is more, India would appear to have the batting firepower to adapt should the game be reduced in overs. For India to come to England - where their record is modest - and win such a tournament with a newly restructured team would represent a fine achievement.
In some ways, this match represents a clash of ODI cultures. While the India side is packed with explosive batting talent, England possess several technically correct, patient players who will build innings in quite a different way. Their critics say it is an outdated method but, should they win, they will have strong evidence to vindicate their strategy.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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