by Rex Clementine
Last Sunday if someone had told you that England and Pakistan would be meeting in the finals of the ICC T-20 World Cup at the iconic MCG, you would have laughed off. Both teams were off to shaky starts and were facing early elimination.
England had suffered a shock defeat to Ireland and then their big match against Australia was washed out. Pakistan meanwhile had lost back to back games to India and Zimbabwe and were set for an early flight home. Then, things turned around remarkably. No wonder they say that cricket is a funny game.
Tournament favourites South Africa choked against Netherlands throwing Pakistan a lifeline and then they beat Bangladesh to progress to the semis where they outclassed a well grilled New Zealand side. England’s fate were in Sri Lanka’s hands and had Dasun Shanaka’s side won their last Super 12 game, hosts Australia would have progressed instead of England.
Once in the semi-final, England produced their best game winning by ten wickets with four overs to spare. The pressure back in India is so much that we may not see legends of the game like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in T-20 Internationals again and K.L. Rahul’s legacy as captain in waiting has been smashed.
Two evenly balanced sides meet in the finals and it remains to be seen who will prevail. It’s a repeat of the 1992 50 over final as well. On that occasion, Imran Khan’s ‘cornered tigers’ defeated Graham Gooch’s side after an inspired spell of left-arm fast bowling from Wasim Akram.
England will be desperately hoping that Mark Wood pulls through. The man who has sent down the quickest ball in the competition clocking 154.7 kmph has an unbelievable strike rate of 13.8 and not even the greatest bowlers of the game can boast of such magical numbers. It will be a bitter blow for England if Wood is ruled out. Pakistan’s middle order is vulnerable and if Wood can dismiss Babar Azam or Mohammad Rizwan early with the new ball, England have the bowling resources to keep Pakistan under control.
Pakistan’s biggest strength is their bowling. A team oozing with cricket talent has a varied attack be it left-arm fast, right-arm fast, off-spin, leg-spin or left-arm spin. Such luxury can not be afforded by any other cricket captain.
England have been beneficiaries of short square boundaries in Sydney and Adelaide and in these grounds even miss hits clear the ropes. But you cannot get away with such things at MCG and that’s one thing that teams need to keep in mind and plan accordingly.
More than 95,000 fans were expected to witness the final but right now it seems we will not have that kind of crowd that we saw earlier in the tournament during the epic India versus Pakistan clash. With India getting knocked out of the finals, people are reselling their tickets for a song and there doesn’t seem to be much interest for the 7000 odd tickets unsold for the final. Inclement weather predicted for Melbourne on Sunday is not helping the cause either. The organizers of course are taking all possible precautions to ensure that we get a game. Monday is the reserve day for the final and in any case they will try to finish the game on Sunday itself with playing conditions amended to extend play up to two hours.