The biggest match of the ICC Cricket World Cup so far takes place on Saturday when the competition returns to Ahmedabad for the high profile clash between the tournament hosts India and arch-rivals Pakistan.
Both teams have made an excellent start to their campaign with two very comfortable wins but now they face their toughest test as the latest leg of this huge rivalry gets played out potentially in front of more than 134,000 fans.
India went into the tournament as the favourites to win the competition and nothing that we have seen so far would suggest they are not going to live up to that billing. They look full of confidence and there might even be more to come from them too with a key player having missed the first couple of matches. A win here would really propel them much further towards the title as it would leave them looking very handy for a spot in the knockout stages.
India have bowled very well so far in the tournament which has taken the pressure off their batters completely. Those batters nearly made a mess of things in the opening game when they lost three early wickets but there was no such mistake in the second game against Afghanistan which India cruised to victory in. Not only are they unbeaten but their net run rate is in a very healthy position so a win here would leave them needing to win just half of their remaining matches to reach the last four.
Given all the struggles Pakistan were subjected to heading into the tournament, it is hard not to be impressed with their start to the campaign. They would have been expected to see off the Netherlands in their first game but did it very well. Their win over Sri Lanka was more appealing, although there were concerns to come out of it. They don’t seem to matter as much when a team wins but it is something that will need to be addressed.
That is their bowling which went for almost 350 to the Sri Lankans. To be fair, the wicket at Hyderabad is good for batting but the problem that Pakistan have is this one is even better so they are going to need to find a way to keep the run concession down. The positive for Pakistan is their own batting has twice delivered the goods and what will give them even more confidence is that their best player is yet to get going. Now would be a mighty good time for that to happen.
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India are expected to have Shubman Gill back from illness for this match. He has been given a 99% chance of playing in which case you would imagine that Ishan Kishan would be the one to make way in an otherwise unchanged side.
Pakistan might feel that they don’t need to make changes after that excellent, record breaking run chase against Sri Lanka, but it might be that they do a little rotation with the ball in the bid to keep the runs down. Mohammad Wasim could come in should that be the case.
I expect to see a high scoring match here. If you go back to the Indian Premier League this was often a high scoring ground and although England didn’t put up much of a score here in the tournament opener, the speed with which New Zealand reached their target told us that there was nothing wrong with the pitch. India haven’t yet hit that big score at this tournament but had they batted all 50 overs in the last game they would have gone beyond 350 at the rate they were batting. Pakistan both scored and conceded 340 in their last game and shipped 356/2 against this opponent at the Asia Cup last month. The run line is 587.5 here and I expect that to be covered on a ground where 300 isn’t even par.
The other bet I like in this match is for Virat Kohli to be the man of the match. In all formats of the game Kohli averages 63.88 against Pakistan so this rivalry is clearly something he is able to get himself up for. He has three centuries against this opponent and they are all in ODI cricket, the latest of which came at the Asia Cup last month. Kohli has started this tournament with successive 50s and looks in good order and could very well be the one to take advantage of these wonderful batting conditions. The bigger the match the better the performance Kohli tends to deliver so at 8/1 I’ll back him to be the player of the match in the biggest of the tournament so far.
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