Champions Trophy, Semi-Final 1, England vs Pakistan: Another Massive Hurdle For Pakistan
The England vs Pakistan semi-final was not on the cards, but the Pakistanis have recovered splendidly.
When the experts had settled down to try and figure out which would be the sides in the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, two teams would not have been listed in their estimates. They would be anticipating hosts England, defending champions India, World No. 1 South Africa and the resurgent Australia as the last-four contestants. As it turns out, they are only half right. We have Pakistan and Bangladesh to thank for that.
Pakistan began with a massive loss to India, and things began looking bleak immediately. As always, the Pakistani team and fans invested too much into the India match and were left struggling after that.
But the rain, which had played havoc with the league encounters, came to their aid as they snatched a Duckworth-Lewis aided win over South Africa.
Then they escaped with a victory when Sri Lanka dropped the trophy, not once but several times, and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, in company with left-arm seamer Mohammad Amir, took Pakistan to the semi-finals.
Pakistan were ranked 8th and last in the field. Those numbers are now out of the window.
But they did their best to lose to Sri Lanka, and for a while it was a contest between who was worse.
England will give them no such quarter.
Of all the teams in the fray, the hosts are the only ones with an all-win record and they look frighteningly good, both in the batting and bowling departments.
Their fast bowlers are big and strong and the spin of the low-profile Adil Rashid is also quite a weapon. Plus, the batting, in the hands of skipper Eoin Morgan, with Joe Root, Ben Stokes and the rest in tow, looks formidable.
So when Pakistan try to win another knockout match at Cardiff on Wednesday, they will have to be miles better than they were against Sri Lanka.
But a knockout match is just that - a sudden-death that can tilt decisively within five overs. So both teams will be keyed up. It's just that Pakistan will be a little tenser.
England: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Alex Hales, Jos Buttler, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Steven Finn.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Khan (capt.), Ahmed Shahzad, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Junaid Khan, Mohammed Amir, Mohammed Hafeez, Shadab Khan and Shoaib Malik.