ENGLAND versus India, host nation versus money spinner – the ICC could not have dreamed of a more perfect final.
Indeed, it has been a wonderful international tournament. With just the best eight teams in the world, this Champions Trophy has been superb entertainment. The cricket has ranged from merely excellent to scintillating. What a shame this is the final Champions Trophy. It has taken 15 years to get the formula right and now it is ending. Madness!
The hope must be that the two protagonists give it the send off it deserves. Though the potential fly in the ointment is a dodgy weather forecast for the Birmingham area. There is no rain day set aside so if both sides can’t get in at least 20 overs the trophy will be shared in what would be a disappointing anti-climax.
England have never won an ICC 50-over tournament and if the weather gods do play ball, the formbook suggests it is likely that will still be the case after today. India are resurgent. The old guard have gone and, in their place, Duncan Fletcher has selected young, vigorous athletes. The fielding, for so long an embarrassment, is electric and the batting very powerful. New opener Shikhar Dhawan is in the form of his life with scores thus far of 114, 102, 48 and 68 and has forged a very productive opening partnership with Rohit Sharma, while Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina are two of the best one-day batsmen in the world and Dinesh Karthik makes up a superb front five.
England, though, have an excellent bowling attack. James Anderson and Stuart Broad emasculated South Africa in the semi-final but they need a couple of early wickets today to stop India bulldozing their way through the opening power-play.
India’s bowling has also been high class. Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are a complimentary opening attack well supported by Ishant Sharma but it is the spin duo that has proved so effective. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are parsimonious and dangerous in the middle overs.
England will need to find a way of working them around to keep the scoreboard moving. Jonathan Trott could be the man to do it, although he is a bit of a conundrum. He is a very consistent runscorer, anchors innings well and provides reliability. Everyone knows he will pootle along at around 75 runs per 100 balls yet he is criticised for it. His slowness is only a problem if others also bat slowly. Alastair Cook and Ian Bell may need to speed up somewhat and let Trott, left, do his thing. There are other issues and one of them is Graeme Swann. He is a supreme off-spinner but has been injured and his deputy, James Tredwell, was outstanding against South Africa. It would be hard to drop Tredwell as he never lets the side down. The other possible change is the return of Tim Bresnan from the maternity ward for Steven Finn.
If England win the toss and bowl first, it will give Anderson the best opportunity of early wickets.
It flies in the face of recent results in which England have won games by batting first, but then they were not playing India.