England v India
Start time: 10.30BST
TV: live on Sky Sports
England have waited a long time to win their first ICC 50-over event. And this represents their best chance. England last made the final in 2004 at The Oval against West Indies but this time with their bowling attack buzzing, at a ground they always do well and against an sub-continent side, they will more than fancy it. It would appear the hosts have found form at the right time. Alastair Cook's side crushed South Africa in the semi-final and looked to be approaching full throttle in the 'quarter-final' against New Zealand.
England have selection issues to ponder. Steven Finn and James Tredwell, solid and superb respectively, against South Africa are not certain of their places. Tim Bresnan is available again after he missed the last-four contest to be at the birth of his child while Graeme Swann has a calf problem. It would make sense if England retained the status quo. Finn's pace and bounce can cause India problems while Tredwell claimed 3-19 against the Proteas.
India have fielded the same XI in the four matches so far. That consistency in selection has been rewarded with fine performances. Every side they have come across they have given a good beating. West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, in Thursday's semi-final, have all been thumped by eight wickets. In their first game a 26-run margin over South Africa looks close but India still amassed 331. Even in the warm-ups they were brutal as they toyed with Sri Lanka and then humiliated Australia by 243 runs. It is a struggle to remember an India one-day side so ruthless and reliable.
Shikhar Dhawan is the star with the bat. He has been out only once as he has piled on 332 runs. With the ball Ishant Sharma looks to be finally living up to his potential while spin duo Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja have 16 wickets between them.
England like batting first in Birmingham. On four of the last five ocassions they have made hay: 269 v Australia, 281 v India, 328 v West Indies and 347 v Bangladesh. The average first-innings score in the last 14 ODI at the ground is 234. Indeed it would be a surprise if we saw a high-scoring contest as throughout the tournament, largely, the bowlers have held sway. From the four matches England were the only ones to breach 250. The weather forecast is poor with showers forecast and this only adds to the belief that it will be a final decided by the bowlers.
India are [1.83] favourites for glory with England [2.18]. We do not agree with those odds at all. And there are a whole stack of reasons why. For a start, England routinely give India a beating on their own patch, just as India do when they are at home. It is nine wins in the last ten years against India and only four losses.Then there is the Edgbaston factor. With a win-loss ratio of 1.90, only at Old Trafford are they more dominant. They have won eight of their last nine matches, roared on by vociferous support.
Punters should also be aware that India are yet to be tested against a bowling attack with nous in seam and swing conditions. South Africa would have given them an examination but Dale Steyn was not fit. It is possible that a batting line-up which is inexperienced in these conditions against good operators won't know what has hit them.
What is most important to recognise, however, is that the final will be won by the team which makes best use of effective bowling conditions. Or to put it another way, whoever wins the toss and then inserts under leaden skies. Let's say both batting sides are as vulnerable as each other then, agreed? So it becomes a 50-50 call. So there is no way England should be so big. If you did not get on when we advised England at [6.8] wo win the title, then don't miss out. Be aware that in the event of a washout, the final will be decided by a Super Over. If it is too wet for that, honours will be shared.
Jonathan Trott, who will go off at [4.50], has a fine record on his home ground. With 153 runs in two innings he will feel top dog. And he is in great nick after his half-century guided England against South Africa and solidified his position at the top of their run charts. A tight technique is required for this contest and Trott fits the bill once more. Joe Root, also durable, catches the eye if you can get near to [6.0].
A problem for India is that their middle- to lower-order has seen precious little action. If they bat first they will surely be needed to buckle down. Dhawan is too short at [3.35] and a lay might be the order of the day because we reckon an England swinger has his number. Better still lay him for a 50 at around [3.5] if you can get on. MS Dhoni, who has good knowledge of the variations of English pitches, may be the man to come to the rescue lower down and he appeals at [8.0].