Birmingham: The result would only be of academic interest but it is unlikely to be just another dead rubber when traditional foes India and Pakistan take on each other in their final Group B match of the Champions Trophy on Saturday. (JPN/Agencies)
Like every time they have clashed in history of the game, arch-rivals India and Pakistan will be taking fresh guard at Edgbaston on Saturday.
India already in semifinals
With India already in the semifinals and Pakistan out of the competition, the last group B league fixture of the ICC Champions Trophy will only be of academic interest.
When the Champions Trophy tickets went online for sale in April this year, it took all of 30 minutes for the allocated tickets to be lapped up. The insatiable demand from Indian and Pakistani fans turn this game to be more than a dead rubber.
Huge fan support for both teams
At least 90 percent of the 25,000 capacity crowd is expected to be divided between the sub-continental cricket giants.
There are many ways to look at any India versus Pakistan clash. From an emotional standpoint, supporters of both teams will start from scratch but the final equation will be determined by how the players ultimately perform in the middle.
The agony of crashing out of the Champions Trophy after two horrible performances against West Indies and South Africa will be instantly forgotten if Pakistan can beat India, the reigning World Cup champions and the No. 1 ODI team according to the ICC.
Records favour Pakistan
Champions Trophy history is, of course, siding with Pakistan. They have never lost to India in six editions of this event.
In head-to-head, Pakistan made it 2-0 against India in the Champions Trophy with a 54-run win at the Supersport Park in Centurion in September 2009.
Purely on form, India have a good chance to pull one back at Pakistan this time. A win will take India to the top of group B with six full points and they will travel to Cardiff to play the No. 2 team in group A.
India opened their Champions Trophy campaign against South Africa in Cardiff with a 26-run victory on June 6.
Saturday's clash to be Pak bowlers vs Indian batsmen
Like most encounters between the arch-rivals, Saturday's match will be a clash between Pakistan's bowlers and India's batsmen. With rain soaking Edgbaston on Wednesday and Thursday and the sun playing hide and seek, conditions may not be ideal for high scores.
But India will back themselves largely because they have posted 300-plus scores thrice in four games, twice in warm-up matches.
Toss to play a crucial role
The toss, therefore, will be crucial as the team batting second will have the advantage of pacing its innings according to the circumstances.
Both India and Pakistan have sound knowledge of the Edgbaston wicket. Riding on hundreds from Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik, India chased down 333 with consummate ease in a warm-up match against Sri Lanka on June 1.
Pakistan, on the other hand, were shot out for 167, chasing South Africa's 234 for nine in a group league game on June 10.
Pakistan's batting has been a serious worry in this tournament. The absence of a grafter in the top-order has exposed the brittle middle-order too soon.
India's batting remains their biggest strength. The opening combination of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan has worked like magic.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, M. Irfan, Asad Ali, Wahab Riaz, Umer Amin, Abdul Rehman, Ehsan Adil.
Match starts 3pm (IST).
Birmingham: The result would only be of academic interest but it is unlikely to be just another dead rubber when traditional foes India and Pakistan take on each other in their final Group B match of the Champions Trophy on Saturday.