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Whenever data analysts and cricket experts declare one of the two sides’ favorites, a lot of things like conditions, weather, teams’ strengths & weaknesses, and match-ups come into consideration. Now when Pakistan and England clash today for the trophy in the T20 WC final, both data and conditions favour England.
The big headache as a Pakistan fan must have been – “Is there any way this English side – so strong and successful due to their brand of cricket and depth in the squad” – can be beaten? Where on paper it seems Pakistan has no chance, in reality, it’s a 50-50 contest.
England are Unbeaten Actually
England have one defeat next to their name before they step into the T20 WC final at the MCG. It was against Ireland where rain interrupted the game before Moeen Ali and Liam Livingston had taken the charge. Ireland won by 5 runs through the DLS method but everyone knows Jos Buttler and co were the promising winner of that game – had rain waited for just another 20 minutes.
The template for World Cup 2019 winners is very simple: Chris Woakes at the start, Mark Wood in the middle, and Sam Curran at the back end. Where Woakes swings it early on and takes early wickets, Wood bowls the good batters out. Curran has found a way of bowling economically in the death overs; the longer square boundaries of Australia suit his style of bowling. If batters struggle against spin or pitch has something for slow bowlers, Adil Rashid and Livingston can be introduced early and they bowl cheap overs against quality teams.
In the batting, skipper Jos Buttler and Alex Hales have scored ensured quick and big starts and both will play a crucial role in the T20 WC final against Pakistan. Both strike the ball at 146 and average 52 in the T20 World Cup 2022. With Stokes and Moeento give the finishing touches, they look favorites for a white ball match anywhere in the world.
Pakistan have Pace and Passion
While on the batting skillet, Pakistan may not match England’s team but when it comes to bowling, Pakistan have outclassed every side in this tournament. Only New Zealand and England have slightly better strike rates than Pakistan bowlers in this tournament but they leak more runs as well. Pakistan bowlers take a wicket on every 16th delivery and don’t concede more than 6.73 runs in an over.
This contrast gets crystal clear as the game progresses. Pakistan not only strikes with the new ball and throws teams out of the game in the middle overs, they know how to contain teams in the death overs. In the final of the Tri-Series, it was New Zealand’s failure in getting some big overs at the back end that forced them to finish with at least 20 short. So far, Pakistan haven’t conceded more than 160 runs in this tournament. They would expect the same in the T20 WC final as well.
Mohammad Haris and Shadab Khan have boosted Pakistan’s batting at the right time. Against South Africa at Sydney, Pakistan reached 185 runs mark and defended the total successfully. The fifties of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan must have brought a sigh of relief in Pakistan’s camp but at the same time. These players might be wary of the return of Mark who has taken six wickets in two outings against Pakistan. Both couldn’t survive the initial spell of Arshdeep Singh at the same venue three weeks ago.
What Babar should do in the T20 WC Final?
If Pakistan’s skipper wins the toss, bowling first would suit them in the overcast conditions of the G. If Pakistan succeeds in taking two early wickets, it will expose the English middle order. In T20 WC 2022, where Buttler and Hales have averaged 52, others’ combined average is just 19 in this tournament. It means if England are 50/1; stats suggest, after 150, they will be seven down.
After Against Sri Lanka, it was Ben Stokes who came to the relief of England but his total score in this World Cup is 56 and against Pakistan, he is playing his second game – that also after six years. Buttler hasn’t featured much against Pakistan since he became an opener. In the 7-match T20I series, he was injured and didn’t face the Pakistan attack. The men in green will fancy their chances if they see the backs of the English opening pair early on and test the likes of Livingston and Stokes with spin.
In the last 7 years, England has played four semi-finals or finals and they lost in 2016, 17 and 21 while chasing. Where Brathwaite and Mitchell were the nightmares for Stokes and Jordan, respectively in 2016 and 2021, Pakistan had never allowed England to recover after early blows and chased down an easy target. They would like to repeat that performance. In the 2019 WC final, when Eoin Morgan’s men were chasing, they were not on the receiving end – thanks to that over-throw, super over, and laws for a tie.
So at MCG today, Pakistan won the toss, they will have to make sure they score quickly in the powerplay even if England get early breakthroughs. They may send Shan at 3 and Shadab at 4 to counter English spinners. On a pitch that’ll have the seam and carry till 20th over, Haris may play down the order to avoid Adil Rashid’s googlies that are tough to read for Babar as well.
So far, the par score at MCG is 167, and 181 is considered a winning total at MCG. In the T20 WC Final, Pakistan will have to make sure they score enough for the bowlers because, despite good starts, 160 is not impossible to chase for modern brutal batters.