The first battle of Semi final in the special edition of ICC Champions League 2017 yet to be rolling on the floors within few hours but the turnaround this year’s Champions League rode through was something to really ponder about. This battle is not only between the formidable host England and the hard-nosed Pakistan but it is also about the two teams, one of which (England) already have played the most convincing cricket and shown almost no real weaknesses, with the another (Pakistan) who is the lowest-ranked and most shambolic team in the tournament appearing to be emerged out of all the hardships they conquered in this Championship outing.
Taking a dig into the quest Pakistan have been walking through so far in their Championship pursuit, this side has shown up outplaying the heavy defeat from the defending champion India and then with such shattered dreams bounced back into the tournament clinching the Semi Finalist spot among the bests in the business. Their achievements hitherto comprises uprooting the number 1 ODI team in the world, South Africa although their victory in that game took into shape based on the Duckworth-Lewis method but still their endeavours were praiseworthy. On the top of all their recent triumphal outing against Sri Lanka brought the best out of them, especially keeping their bowling onslaught in mind they had shown a magnificent game playing against Lanka by bowling them out in 236 runs only. Although their chasing potential seemed a bit clumsy hence it is quite comprehensible that they must be eyeing to crop up into the semis resolving the leftover loopholes.
On the other end there is the most promising side of this tournament England and by saying so they are the much anticipating host for this year’s championship run. Their formidable quest in this tournament already has put them into the strongest position among the rest. Despite of riding through an unbeaten streak this well balanced team are also on the rummage of revamping their best eleven for the semis. Their only daunting concern for the semis is in regard to the final selection of Jonny Bairstow in lieu of Jason Roy against the underdog Pakistan.
England’s reigning expedition in this tournament already handed them out with an additional edge over the dark horse, Pakistan. Both the teams would be approaching the semis with their respective mindsets but in this regard too England has an upper hand as Pakistan would be hitting the field just 38 hours after a manic victory over Sri Lanka in which both teams descended into outright panic. “We won ugly yesterday. We can’t sugar coat that fact,” Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur said on Tuesday (June 13). Hence in terms of knocking the best in the business England out of their strides to get the first piece of 50 over Silverware in an ICC event, they must unleash their best rested inside.
Funnily enough, the only instance where these sides have met each other in the knockout rounds of a one-day tournament was 25 years ago, when Pakistan beat England in the final of the 1992 World Cup. Pakistan also began that tournament in a state of chaos like England who has played to reach this stage of the Champions Trophy as the only unbeaten side. So would it really be a surprise if Pakistan pulled another Pakistan?
After a wet first week in the tournament, the weather has cleared and Wednesday looks set to be the warmest day of the year so far in Cardiff. However the game will be played on the same strip that was used for Monday’s scramble, so it will be a little worn. The spinners could well come into play.
England: Although Eoin Morgan would not confirm it, all signs pointed to Jason Roy being replaced by Jonny Bairstow at the top of the order. Roy spent Tuesday’s training session watching on from the periphery while Bairstow had a full bat in the nets. Otherwise the hosts have no need for change after a hugely impressive campaign thus far.
Probable XI: Alex Hales, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood, Jake Ball.
Pakistan: Mickey Arthur admitted that, given Pakistan’s middle order fragility, they will consider getting Sarfraz Ahmed or Shoaib Malik in a little earlier. Meanwhile Shadab Khan could rival Fahim Ashraf for a place if spin looks likely to be the greater threat.
Probable XI: Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan/Fahim Ashraf, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali
Stats and Trivia:
– Despite his limited opportunities in the one-day side this year, Jonny Bairstow has been excellent when he has got a game – in four ODIs in 2017 he has scored 189 runs at an average of 94.5.
– When Pakistan chased 303 to beat England at this venue last year, it was the first time they had chased a target of 300-plus against a non-Asian side outside of Asia. Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali shared seven wickets in that game, while Sarfraz Ahmed top-scored with 90.
– This is Pakistan’s 14th appearance in the semi-finals of an ICC event – the joint most for a team alongside Australia and India.
“Getting to this stage of the tournament, we need results, and if that means somebody misses out, it’s unfortunate, but for the team’s sake we need to get results. We want to win this tournament.” Eoin Morgan explains why England appear to have changed their minds about Jason Roy.
“The only thing I will say, is I know that Bairstow has opened at county level but he’s never done it internationally, and I think that’s a different ball game.” Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur suggests that replacing Roy with Bairstow might not be the wisest option.