England vs Pakistan: Champions Trophy preview

Saurabh Roar Rookie

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    Optimism for an English Champions Trophy win is delivering. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

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    At Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, on Wednesday, Pakistan will play England in the Champions Trophy semi-final.

    Pakistan will likely will go with an unchanged squad from the last match, against Sri Lanka, which will include dynamic opener Fakhar Zaman.

    Their bowling, led by Mohammad Amir, has been superb. Hasan Ali has picked up the crucial wickets, and comeback man Junaid Khan has filled the void left by enforcer Wahab Riaz.

    Fahim Ashraf enjoyed a good debut, with two wickets, while Imad Wasim has not given much away – apart from the first game, where he went for 25 in an over against India.

    Their issue is fielding, which has never been Pakistan’s strength, and it could cost them the game against England, as the home side have players who can win match singlehandedly from a hopeless situation.

    In the first match, against Bangladesh, Alex Hales’ score of 95 and Joe Root’s unbeaten hundred took the English home. Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Butler have come in handy, providing the finishing touches.

    Jason Roy has managed 51 runs in eight outings since the tour of India, meaning he will retain his spot over Sam Billings or Johny Bairstow, who scored career-best 174* from 113 balls in the County Championship.

    In the bowling stocks, Mark Wood has been sensational since his return from a lengthy injury layoff. Against South Africa not only did he defend seven runs against the duo of Chris Morris and David Miller, but against Australia, he picked up the big wickets of Steven Smith and Glenn Maxwell.

    Adil Rashid bowled his best ODI figures against Australia, 4-41. Chris Woakes was a big loss, but the English bowlers have complemented each other very well – that an excellent limited-overs bowler like David Willey is yet to play a game gives an indication of their strength.

    Both sides have won last four of their five ODIs. England were victorious over South Africa, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Australia, with their solitary loss coming against South Africa in a dead rubber (the final ODI of three-match series).

    Pakistan beat West Indies, South Africa and Sri Lanka, with their only loss against India in their opening Champions Trophy match.

    Against one another, England won over Pakistan 4-1 at home and 3-1 in the UAE.

    As such, No.4 ranked England are firm favourites over No.8 ranked Pakistan. But strange things have happened this tournament – the No.1 ranked ODI team, South Africa, is out while Bangladesh are in their first ever ICC tournament semis.

    In crunch games like this, more than the talent and form, nerves will separate boys from the men.