The comparison between the ongoing 2022 T20 World Cup and 1992 ODI World Cup is unparalleled. In front of a packed 87,000 MCG, it was Pakistan who turned victorious so many years back. 30 years later, it is these two sides who face each other.
There are several parallels. Pakistan began the tournament with a loss, England began with a close win. On the other hand, there is the running joke that this will be the ninth match of the long T20I series between the two sides. Perhaps, two sides have not faced each other more times than these two have for some time now in the shortest format.
On one hand, there is God Save the King, and on the other hand, Qudrat ka Nizam. It is a tournament that has seen so many twists and turns but it is these two sides – England and Pakistan – who are ultimately fighting for the bragging rights. And, of course, that silverware.
While England are heavily reliant on their data-first-approach, there is Pakistan, who live and die by the jazbaa. Does the trophy go to Asia or travel furthermore and reach the English shores?
How does Pakistan plan for the English top-order?
England have an unreal batting depth, with Adil Rashid being their No.11 in the India fixture. Rashid has a First-Class high score of 180. But the match didn’t even go till the second wicket, the English openers sealed a convincing win against a hopeless Indian bowling unit. Adelaide was witness to that; the entire world too was. So, now what can Pakistan do?
The Three Lions have the best run-rate in the powerplay with the bat, scoring at 8.6 RPO, averaging a high 64.5 when the field restrictions are on. It is almost close to impossible to get them out, isn’t it? No.
Pakistan have one of the best weapons in their hand – Shaheen Shah Afridi. Both Hales and Buttler have shown vulnerability against left-arm speedster. The full-length has been one of the go-to-areas for the left-armer in the ongoing T20 World Cup. Five of the 13 dismissals at the venue have been to deliveries in the slot.
Not just that, Pakistan could go slightly outside the box, trying either of Mohammad Nawaz or Shadab Khan in the powerplay. While it will be uncharacteristic of them, given they are the only side to not bowl spin in the first six over stage, the match-up suggests a change is in cards. Shadab has had Buttler in his pocket twice, conceding just 21 runs in 21 balls.
Nawaz, on the other hand, has a stellar defensive record against Hales, conceding just 24 runs in 25 balls with a dismissal. Either way, Pakistan have the goods to go past the English opening pair. It is a matter of how well they use their resources.
Contrasting middle-orders at the MCG
Pakistani fans would have waited long for the day to utter that they have a very good middle-order. A large chunk of their runs over the last three years have come from the top order (1-3), and more specifically, their openers – Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan. But in this tournament, their middle-order has stepped up when it mattered.
The addition of Mohammad Haris has only made Pakistan stronger. Pakistan’s middle-order (4-7) have scored the fourth-most runs in this year’s competition, with a strike-rate of 135.4, averaging 21.7 runs per wicket. With England set to use their spinners in the middle-overs, we are most likely to see the promotion of Nawaz and Shadab yet again.
On the other hand, England have a pale middle-order. In the Super 12 stage, the Three Lions have the worst middle-order unit, who have underwhelming numbers of 13.7/wicket and a strike-rate of 109.4. Pakistan have the best bowling record during the middle-overs. So, the match may even boil down to who is more successful in the middle-overs.
Are England bowlers effective enough?
While Pakistan’s bowling unit is certainly world-class, the Asian side should be careful in not underestimating the Three Lions bowling unit. With bigger square boundaries and shorter straights, MCG’s dimension would best suit England’s bowling unit, who rely on the back of a length delivery.
The Three Lions have nearly bowled 26 overs in the back of a length mark, where they have picked up 16 wickets. It is also an area of weakness for the Pakistani batters, who only strike at 86.8 in the good length area and 127.4 when pitched even backwards. Not just that, Buttler on the eve of the final also indicated that there is a possibility that Mark Wood would be fit in time for the final.
If that is the case, Pakistan are in for a long night. Wood naturally hits that 8-10m length, which really puts the Pakistani batters in a whole lot of trouble. Six of his nine wickets in the tournament have come off that length. And, we also saw how that length was mighty effective for Pakistan in their opener against India.
Even in his absence, it is a length that comes naturally to the likes of Curran, Jordan and Woakes, which in reality, will make it a proper contest between the two teams.
Yup, the mighty MCG, or as you would by now know, the rain bowl of Australia. There is heavy rain in the lead-up to the final, a high 80% of precipitation predicted for the day of the final and the same percentage on the reserve day. Unlike group stage games, at least ten overs have to be bowled to force a result.
Adil Rashid vs Babar: 77 runs, 25.7 average and three dismissals
Haris Rauf vs Hales: 26 runs, 13 average, 92.9 strike-rate and two dismissals
Shadab Khan vs Buttler: 21 runs, 10.5 average, 100 strike-rate and two dismissals
Liam Livingstone vs Rauf: 59 runs, 268.4 strike-rate and zero dismissal
Pakistan will remain unchanged, having found their ideal XI during the tournament
Pakistan: Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Haris, Shan Masood, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Afridi
If Dawid Malan and Mark Wood are deemed fit, England will definitely take the risk and play them in the final. Otherwise, expect them to retain the same line-up that brilliantly went past India.
England: Jos Buttler (c & wk), Alex Hales, Philip Salt/Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Harry Brook, Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan/Mark Wood, Adil Rashid