India v Pakistan
Saturday 15 April, 10:30 BST
Live on Sky Sports 1
The first two games of the ICC Champions Trophy could not have gone better for India. Everything they could've hoped for has happened, with the bowling and fielding having been better than expected and some of the batting in the outstanding category. Foremost among those batsmen has been Shikhar Dhawan. Everyone had been waiting for another great performance from the opener after his startling Test debut back in March and he has certainly proved wrong those doubters who thought he was a flash in the pan with centuries in both of the games to date.
Another player worthy of note has been fast bowler Ishant Sharma. So often condemned for his inconsistency, he has made an admirable effort to cover for the absence of veteran seamer Zaheer Khan and although he is still not the death bowler they have long been looking for, he has proved hard to get away with the new ball and has been a major factor in India's success so far.
By contrast, things really have not gone well for Misbah-ul-Haq's men. The captain and spinner Saeed Ajmal aside, none of their players have lived up to their reputations and once again Pakistan have come up short in a major tournament.
They will, of course, look to put all of that behind them in game against their greatest rivals. There may not be a semi-final place for them to play for, but there is pride. They don't have too many options for shaking up their batting lineup, but Asad Shafiq could replace Umar Amin and they may push Mohammad Hafeez back up to his more natural position as opener.
Venue and Conditions
Spinners have dominated in Birmingham so far in this competition. As a result, a score of around 240 in the first innings looks to be about par here, with the pitch getting more difficult to score on as time goes on. Of the three games played here so far, two were won by the side batting first and in the abandoned game between Australia and New Zealand the Black Caps were well behind the required run rate when the match was called off. Rain is forecast for the middle part of the day, but should not prevent a full game being played.
Unsurprisingly, India are the runaway favourites at [1.56] and Pakistan are the longest pre-match outsiders we have yet seen in this tournament at [2.5]. The question, though, is whether India will resort to bad habits and take their feet off the gas now that they are the only side assured of qualifying for the semi-finals. Pakistan, by contrast, will not want to go home with no points and a defeat to India under their belts. Do not be surprised if that is incentive enough to win this.
Dhawan's success has eclipsed all other Indian batsmen so far, even the efforts of Dinesh Karthik (who scored back-to-back hundreds in the warm-up matches) now long forgotten. The effect of this is that you'll get longer odds on some other Indian superstars than you otherwise might. One man who has been in good form recently but who has yet to make a big score is Virat Kohli, but batting as he does at number three he should always be a consideration in this market and at odds of around [4.7] he will be better value than he usually is.
Pakistan's batsmen have been so short of form that finding anyone to back in this market is tricky. Jamshaid has been their most consistent player and Misbah's 96 against the West Indies in their opening game is still the fourth highest score in the competition. Again, though, that makes them shorter odds than their form deserves. For that reason, the man to back is Hafeez, who usually makes one big score in a tournament and who usually does well against India. At around [4.8] he will be a good bet in this market.