India v Pakistan, final, Kitply Cup, Mirpur June 13, 2008

India start as firm favourites

Match facts

Saturday, June 14, 2008
Start time 15.00 (local), 9.00 (GMT)

Praveen Kumar has been outstanding with the new ball © AFP

The Big Picture

Ancient history favours Pakistan, but more modern events give India the edge going into Saturday's encounter. Pakistan have usually fared better in ODI finals between these traditional rivals, winning five of the seven tournaments where the two sides met in the title clash - but the last of those was in 1999. India have had the upper hand in recent matches, winning five of their last seven games and with their rampaging top-order firing, have steamrollered their way to the final.

A victory on Saturday would add to Mahendra Singh Dhoni's growing reputation as an ODI captain, having already tasted success at home against Pakistan and in the CB series in Australia.

On the other hand, Shoaib Malik is yet to win a ODI series against significant opposition since beating Sri Lanka last May. His side's 12-game winning streak was emphatically snapped by a 140-run defeat in the league match against India, prompting a stinging and public rebuke from PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf.

While this is a battle between arch-rivals, the frequency of matches between the two sides has taken the edge off this game. As Shahid Afridi said, "some of the jadoo (magic) has gone out of the atmosphere and build-up." A win here, though, will be the perfect tonic ahead of the Asia Cup.

Form guide - India

Last five matches: WWWWW (most recent first)

Player to watch: Praveen Kumar's ability to move the new ball both ways has made him a tricky customer for batsmen to deal with. He dismissed Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting cheaply in both finals of the CB series and continued the good work in this series - running through the Pakistan top order and stifling the Bangladesh batsmen. With India's batting in top form, another incisive spell from Praveen could prove very costly for Pakistan.

Form guide - Pakistan

Last five matches: LWWWW (most recent first)

Player to watch: Mohammad Yousuf has perfected the art of scoring quickly while rarely seeming flustered or hurried at the crease. An array of conventional shots has ensured the runs keep flowing with minimal risks. He's averaging a phenomenal 81.76 in his last 21 matches, and with Younis Khan and Afridi not in the best of form, he is the lynchpin of the Pakistan middle-order.

Team news

With the team progressing smoothly to the finals, India may not tinker too much with their combination. The only change could be Ishant Sharma coming back in place of RP Singh.

India: (probable) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Rohit Sharma, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 Piyush Chawla, 10 Praveen Kumar, 11 Ishant Sharma.

Mohammad Yousuf has been the lynchpin of Pakistan's middle order © AFP

Besides Malik and Afridi, Fawad Alam is the only spinner in the squad and he might not be risked in the final as he hasn't made much of an impact in his limited chances at the international level. Pakistan are likely persist with four fast bowlers in their XI.

Pakistan: (probable) 1 Salman Butt, 2 Kamran Akmal (wk), 3 Younis Khan, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Shoaib Malik (capt), 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9, Umar Gul, 10 Wahab Riaz / Sohail Khan, 11 Iftikhar Anjum.

Pitch and conditions

The pitches used in the tournament have come in for praise from Geoff Lawson, the Pakistan coach. "The ball has not spun much but it has good bounce. It has been a terrific pitch to play on," he said. India's coach Gary Kirsten was also satisfied with the pitch and felt it would remain good for batting through the match, reducing the importance of the toss.

Stats and trivia

  • Gautam Gambhir averaged 25.05 in his first 20 ODIs and a splendid 50.04 in his previous 29 games.

  • Twelve of Shoaib Malik's 33 fifty-plus ODI scores have come against India.

  • Younis Khan has faced only one ball in this tournament but has been dismissed twice.

  • The last final in Bangladesh featuring Pakistan and India had a thrilling conclusion with Hrishikesh Kanitkar slamming a boundary to clinch it off the penultimate ball.


    "We are not concerned by emails but about how the players perform tomorrow."
    Lawson puts up a brave front.

    "It's always a great clash and we know it's not going to be the same as it was the other night. It's going to be a different Pakistan team out there."
    Kirsten warns his team against complacency

    Siddarth Ravindran is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo

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