Bangladesh v India, Champions Trophy 2017, 2nd semi-final, Edgbaston June 15, 2017

India thrive on boring but effective template

Barring the Sri Lanka game, a set method has resulted in success so far, and proceedings in the semi-final weren't too different
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Tait: Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar in good shape going into the final

The pressure is on India.

Sarfraz Ahmed said that first. Mashrafe Mortaza said that next. Yet Virat Kohli's India have waltzed into the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy without breaking much sweat or missing too many steps. India have made winning look ridiculously easy.

That success has come through a set template: throttle the opposition in the first 10 overs, take wickets in the middle overs and finish well each time they have bowled first. Indian bowlers have taken the most wickets in the middle segment of the innings - 19. And when it comes to chasing down targets, India are well-versed in this art, evident in the semi-final against Bangladesh.

On Thursday, the Indian batsmen cut loose from the start. Their run rate was much quicker in the first Powerplay - 63 for 0 was their best start after 10 overs in four matches of the tournament after scores of 37, 48, 46 at the same stage (against South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan respectively). By the halfway stage India were 164 for the loss of Shikhar Dhawan. Having wrapped up the Bangladesh innings almost 20 minutes ahead of the regulation time, India turned the screws fast on their opponents even with the bat.

Critics have pointed out that in tightly-run tournaments like these, the opposition usually is not consistently of high standard and that the pitches are skewed in favour of the batsmen, which feeds India's strength. But those conditions should apply to the other seven teams too. England were the firm favourites. South Africa and New Zealand disappointed themselves. Australia were unlucky to be beaten twice by the weather. You cannot fault India for doing what they are good at.

On the eve of the tournament, Virat Kohli had mentioned there were three factors that helped India win the title in 2013: the success of the Shikhar Dhawan-Rohit Sharma opening combination, the domination of their spin pair - R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja - and their fielding.

Virat Kohli was delighted with how the Bhuvneshwar Kumar-Jasprit Bumrah combination had stepped up in the last two matches © Getty Images

Two of those factors have contributed to their success four years later. Dhawan and Rohit are the most successful opening pairing not just this edition but in Champions Trophy history. Both men have one century each so far in this edition and their four 100-plus partnerships are the most by any pair in the tournament's history.

After the Pakistan victory, Kohli had admitted fielding was a grey area and he would give his unit six out of 10. Against South Africa,the ruthless fielding unit effected three run outs, of which two- AB de Villiers and David Miller - were match-turning.

As far as Ashwin and Jadeja go, they have been forced to be defensive on pitches where the ball has not gripped the surface and spun much. Despite that, India's bowling has managed to squeeze the opposition throughout the innings barring the solitary failure against Sri Lanka, who transformed a challenging target into a cakewalk.

Forced to re-think after the loss, India gave Jasprit Bumrah the opportunity to share the new ball with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, possibly the best death-bowling pair in cricket currently. In fact, in this edition, among teams bowling first, they have the best economy rate in the final 10 overs.

Australia captain, Steven Smith, has called Bhuvneshwar the best death bowler, but the Indian seamer is equally smart as a strike bowler too. The conditions at the start of the Bangladesh innings were exactly what Bhuvneshwar would have wanted: overcast with a little breeze. He started by pitching some deliveries wide, tempting the batsmen to reach out. Tamim Iqbal did not. Soumya Sarkar did and paid the price by playing on.

Sabbir Rahman was eager to bolt out of his crease almost every ball, thus revealing his hand. Bhuvneshwar hit the hard lengths and pitched short to frustrate him. The batsman was kept on the edge of the crease as Bhuvneshwar would angle in a fuller length delivery next ball. Bhuvneshwar eventually trapped Sabbir as he stretched out to play a wider delivery on off stump to Jadeja at point.

"Outstanding," is how Kohli summed up the role the Bhuvneshwar-Bumrah new-ball combine. "Especially in the last two games. they have been terrific initially and in the later stages as well. Their wicket-taking ability is always something that the opposition knows, so they are always careful about going hard against these two guys."

According to Kohli, the fast bowlers had worked hard to improve their lines and length, an exercise that was monitored under the sharp watch of India coach Anil Kumble. Kohli agreed it has paid dividends. "After the Sri Lanka, the lengths and line has been impeccable, so consistent, bowling close to the batsman, always there with an opportunity to get a wicket. Even in conditions which are not offering too much bowling such lines that can produce wicket-taking opportunities. Big credit to both of them for getting us where we stand right now."

With bat, ball, and in the field, India have strived hard to be on top. They have made mistakes, but they have also swiftly corrected them - like the bowlers improvising their line and lengths or the top order scoring at a brisk rate. Today when they found themselves under pressure - as Tamim and Mushfiqur played aggressively between the 12th and 25 overs, adding 93 - Kohli brought in part-timer Kedar Jadhav to distract the batsman. Jadhav was eventually the catalyst for victory.

As Kohli said, the hype about playing Pakistan for the second time in two weeks could distract everyone else, except India, who will continue to play "boring cricket." Boring = consistent, proactive, ruthless.

On Sunday India will find themselves at a place they have desired to be in. The pressure, obviously, will be back on them. Pakistan will, no doubt, say that.

Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Alex on June 17, 2017, 7:05 GMT

    India just wait for pakistan to win the game. Yes srilanka beat india because india did n't think much of srilankan batsman and cost them badly. I do not think india will have any problem of applying pressure on pakistan. Bigger the win against pakistan better the joy is. Its vice versa. Pakistan want to beat india and say they are better and india is paper tiger. I do want pakistan to win. But it depends on one man. Fakhar zaman. He must not throw away his wicket. As long as he is there until 30th over game is in pakistan pocket. Pakistan do have to bat second to win. They really do not have fire power to setup big score >300. India will take singles until 35th over and win it comfortably. They need to unsettle rohit sharma and dhawan. if pakistan come with purpose they have the physical body and energy to achieve. Do they have temperament and determination? We have to wait and see. Let all the arm chair to predict the game. I think india win this easy. Once fakhar gone , game over.

  • prabaharan15 on June 17, 2017, 4:31 GMT

    @mindurgame it's called champions trophy for a reason as it is played by the champion teams,it's almost like a knock out with very little second chances to qualify. The team with good strategy , performing as a unit with cool head weaving around the toss and the weather wins and proceeds further , if a team needs more chances to qualify for the finals the then there is the World Cup matches for them. Unfortunately winning is by scoring runs , taking wickets and fielding fiercely and not by boasting and underestimating other teams if that's what you consider as an interesting encounter. It's intriguing to have this discussion of poor organization and scheduling towards the tail end of the tournament and not at the beginning, I'm sure if some other team from the subcontinent had won the semi finals it would be really different statement.It is really getting redundant about blaming other teams , scheduling , tournaments and it's officials when a certain team loses with no end in sight.

  • Dennis on June 17, 2017, 0:37 GMT

    If Pakistan wins the toss they should send India to bat, get their spinners in early and set the pace, good fielding and catching reduce the boundries at the Mid wickets hold India to under 300, When Pakistan bats 2nd they are good finishers.

  • Kushal on June 16, 2017, 17:05 GMT

    Why cant people understand that pandya is still young. He still bowled 10 overs against SA. Also these r flat pitches. Fizz only to one wicket in the tournament and went for over 6 runs. He provides balance. I hope kohli uses jhadav and pandya to bowl 10 overs. And umesh comes in for ashwin for this one. Pak are afraid of fast bowling and bouncers.

  • Ashok on June 16, 2017, 12:57 GMT

    I am surprised that Shami is not included in these tactics & plans. Does India need 3 finishers in Dhoni, Jadhav & Pandya? Why not replace Pandya with a genuine Pace bowler like Shami? IMO he will add greatly to the stature of wicket taking ability of the pace bowlers from 2 to 3. Pandya is not likely to bat for long innings batting @#6 or #7. That is the only flaw in the policy adapted by India- the XI selection which relies on just 2 pace bowlers + Pandya who does not have the same experience as Shami, Bhuvi or Bumrah. Also does India need 2 specialist spinners on a pitch unresponsive to the spinners? There is room to add one more Pace bowler or even a batsman. India is doing well since they lost to SL. But they need to keep their foot on the gas pedal & finish the tour by winning their final crucial match for the championship. Lets Go India.

  • Munaf on June 16, 2017, 12:27 GMT

    I feel that India will stick to template of reaching 275-280 first playing risk free cricket..in other words fixed template as always. Once they get to 275...then they take whatever they score about it as bonus runs. I guess sometimes they end up scoring 25 short than what they feel is par score sometimes like in case of game with SL. Pakistan will get less and less confident about their chances if India get to 275.....for every single run scored thereafter. Some Pundits say the India middle order has not had much exposure but i find it funny. Dhoni, Yuvraj have years of experience and if that is not exposure, I dont know what is. Pandya will be x factor. A quick fire 35 or 40 from him may make the difference in final analysis. Or maybe he will end up with 2-3 wkts in middle as I got feeling he will be targeted and profit from it. Good luck India.

  • 1_4_4_celebrate_W_W_W on June 16, 2017, 11:41 GMT

    @MINDURGAME: If convincing yourself that India and Pakistan are in the finals only because the other teams were not very interested is what helps you sleep at night, we completely understand.

  • Brijesh on June 16, 2017, 10:42 GMT

    @MindUrGame - Disinterested teams? If I'm not wrong, M. Starc decided to forgo almost 2 million USD from the IPL for this tournament. Most teams including the ones you've mentioned have put in a meticulous amount of preparation, like SA's early ODI series against Eng. Amidst all the drama surrounding Ind's participation in the tournament, players who normally refuse to make political statements chose to make one - They wanted to play. Meanwhile Pak decided to arrive earlier than most teams to acclimatise. I doubt there's 'disinterest' reflected in any of these actions. However, what you may have noticed is the lack of 'fan interest'. I suspect this is largely due to the weather which skewed the tournament in favour of some teams. While Eng remains the best place to host the CT, the weather here is freakishly unpredictable. Unfortunately this year, it took toll on a few crucial matches in the group stages, which left us with unbalanced contests. Let's hope the final is better.

  • Siddharth on June 16, 2017, 9:33 GMT

    @ALLROUNDCRICKET You could say Hardik was unlucky not to get a wicket since he got 2 off no-balls but he's more than good enough to come off as a 5th bowler. On a seaming pitch or any movement he's fine, on a flat pitch any bowler can be spanked so he adds with his power batting.

    The issues for India the bowling collapsed against SL (arguably the weakest batting line-up), the batting hasn't really been tested below Kohli, Yuvraj has had 1 gr8 innings 1 failure the rest hardly have had a bat

  • rajasekaran on June 16, 2017, 8:44 GMT

    As a Indian Supporter I welcome this Sunday final. But I would like to say let the best team win on the final day. 3 cheers to both teams for this exiting final

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