A billion viewers await as rivals India and Pakistan clash

Pakistan's Mohammad Amir, left, celebrates with Sarfraz Ahmed after beating Sri Lanka. Picture: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistan's Mohammad Amir, left, celebrates with Sarfraz Ahmed after beating Sri Lanka. Picture: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images
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Pakistan are out to make cricket history by shocking their great rivals India in a Champions Trophy final they believe is “bigger than the Ashes”.

More than a billion viewers are expected to tune into the action at The Oval to see whether India retain their title or unheralded Pakistan can sneak the silverware, having begun the tournament ranked No 8 in the world.

Their bowling coach Azhar Mahmood, returning to what he describes as his “second home” after several seasons as a Surrey favourite on the pitch, has great belief in a Pakistan team who knocked England out of their own tournament at the semi-final stage.

“We’ve got nothing to lose – the pressure is more on them. They are ranked higher than us but I can tell you one thing – we have come to win.”

With Mohammad Amir expected to be available again after the back spasm that ruled him out of the last-four clash against England in Cardiff, Azhar’s hopes are high.

“India have the upper hand in ICC tournaments. But things can change, and this is the time for us to change the tag that we don’t perform well at ICC events,” he said.”

This weekend’s huge occasion will ask new questions of both teams.

“It is massive,” said Azhar. “It is bigger than the Ashes – and expectation is high from both nations, crazy about cricket. It is a dram final for the sponsors and the broadcasters. This is the game they want, but it is up to us how we handle the pressure on the day.”

He has no doubt Pakistan can rise to the occasion.

“No one gave us a hope when we got here. We were the number eight ranked side, and no one gave us any credit.

“But I believe in my boys ... if we win it would be a great gift to the whole nation.”

Key seamer Amir was able to bowl in the Oval nets yesterday but had treatment from the physio too.

Azhar said: “He bowled without any problem. The back spasm took two days to get over, and he’s better now. ”

Jasprit Bumrah insists India will not underestimate Pakistan despite hammering them in both sides’ opener less than two weeks ago.

Pakistan were written off after a 124-run mauling in Birmingham, but bounced back to overcome South Africa and Sri Lanka before upsetting hosts England in the last four.

That has given them the chance for revenge against their rivals when they meet for the first time in a global one-day international final, and Bumrah insists Pakistan will be afforded plenty of respect.

When asked if he was surprised at Pakistan’s resurgence since their opening defeat, the unorthodox seamer replied: “Not at all, anything can happen on any day.

“They are always a good side. You cannot take any team lightly, especially Pakistan.”

India booked their place in the showpiece fixture with a nine-wicket victory over Bangladesh at Edgbaston.

While Kedar Jadhav took the plaudits with two crucial wickets, Bumrah was no less impressive, conceding just 12 runs from his opening five overs, taking two scalps at the death to finish on two for 39.

Having already taken a return catch from Mosaddek Hossain, Bumrah cleaned up Mahmudullah with a yorker.

He said: “It always feels good whenever you’re contributing to your team. [Bowling yorkers] is not easy and you have to work really hard.”

In-between his two five-over spells, Bumrah received treatment on his back, but he insisted: “I was told to rest and this is the thing which I’m doing. I’m totally fine.”