Pakistan-England clash at T20 World Cup: Five key points to winning the trophy
Both teams have yet to win a match at the iconic Melbourne venue which has played a pivotal role in the growth and development of international cricket
After a gap of 30 years, England and Pakistan will meet in an ICC World Cup final at Melbourne on Sunday, and for the first time in T20 cricket.
The Three Lions hold a 2-0 record in this format having beaten Pakistan by 48 runs in 2009 and by six wickets in 2010.
However, the Green Shirts can take heart from the fact that they beat England, albeit in the ODI version, at the MCG in 1992.
Interestingly, both teams have yet to win a match at the iconic venue which has played a pivotal role in the growth and development of international cricket.
England and Pakistan head to Sunday’s showpiece high on confidence following dominant semifinals victories over New Zealand and India respectively.
But do they have enough left in the tank after an exhausting three weeks of action Down Under.
Here we look at the five key areas that could make the difference between winning and losing.
How important is winning the toss? It is huge.
When the coin is thrown into the air, not only are the two captains watching anxiously, but almost every cricket fan. While winning the toss is akin to winning the first round in boxing it does not stand for anything unless the right decision is taken – to bat first or to field.
Statistics show that batting second at the Melbourne Cricket Ground has yielded a 58 percent of victories while the team batting first has only a 38 percent win record.
While batting first usually gives a team an advantage in Test cricket, it is different in T20 where having a target to chase is often better than trying to set one.
So it will be interesting to see what rival captains Babar Azam and Jos Buttler decide is the better choice should they call right at the toss.
A good pitch offers a good contest between bat and ball. It’s as simple as that, or is it?
The ICC have made it clear that venues and curators are accountable for producing sub-par pitches to ensure that there is no threat of tricks being played by the strip and that both batsmen and bowlers have a fair chance.
Earlier during the tournament, pitch curator Michael Salvatore said: “T20 wickets are usually really consistent for the whole match. We have brought it from our wicket nursery which is just outside the ground. It’s literally 200 meters outside the ground so we can move and monitor and maintain the wickets all year around.”
The average first innings score at the MCG is 143 but it drops to 127 in the second innings. Out of 21 T20s played here, 11 have been won by the team batting second, a very narrow advantage which both England and Pakistan will be aware of.
Players who can bat and also bowl are gold in T20 cricket.
Their presence can tilt the scales in favour of a team should the specialists fail to deliver.
Both England and Pakistan are well served by these utility players, although it would appear that the former hold the slight advantage when it comes to depth in batting.
After England recorded a dominant victory over India in the semifinals, skipper Jos Buttler on said it was England’s batting depth that allowed him and Alex Hales the luxury to bat like there was no tomorrow.
Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Chris Jordan are perhaps England’s best all rounders going into the final but Pakistan are not lacking in the department either with Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz equally strong with bat and ball.
When the going gets tough both sides will turn to them for answers.
When the stakes are high the tension is even higher. Sunday’s game can hinge on which team can handle the pressure better and calm their nerves in tough situations.
Even the most experienced and senior players can be undone by nerves which are a discomforting facet of sport.
England have looked every inch a professional outfit in all forms of the game, from strategies to execution to holding their nerves.
Pakistan too have displayed extraordinary control of their emotions as they turned things around from being eliminated in the league stage to reaching the final.
Although they carry the huge expectations of millions of cricket-loving fans back home and in Australia, they have not let nerves get in the way of their will to succeed. They have performed admirably under pressure and enter the final having embraced adversity and keeping calm.
While many argue that T20 is biased towards batsmen, a disciplined bowling attack can compensate for this perception.
In red ball cricket, the balance is even but with the white ball coupled with the limits for bowlers and strict fielding restrictions, the batsmen hold the edge.
Both England and Pakistan will aim to bring discipline to the MCG where bowlers will need to be at their very best and sharpest. Fewer free runs, through no-balls and wides, will help control the opposing team’s scoring rate and put pressure on the batsmen.
Pakistan’s four-pronged pace attack led by Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah and Mohammed Waseem can run through the best batting, provided they do not waver.
Likewise, England will rely on Chris Woakes, Sam Curran and Ben Stokes and they will need to be at their best to make the batsmen work and not turn it into a slugfest early in the game.
Both teams have the attacks to bowl a side out cheaply and with the way the bat has dominated the T20 World Cup, it makes for an interesting contest. Without a doubt.