iconimg Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Rohit Bhaskar, Hindustan Times
Birmingham, June 23, 2013
They both came into the tournament under trying circumstances. India flew in with a cloud of spot-fixing hovering over their head. England had just lost a home ODI series to the Kiwis.
Their progress to the final has been contrasting. India have beaten all comers with a dazzling top order, an uncharacteristically brilliant fielding unit and a cohesive combination of pacers and spinners.

England's path has been more anxious, with a loss to Sri Lanka and a narrow win in a helter-skelter rain-curtailed match against New Zealand.

In many ways, it's the perfect final. A dazzling India vs an obdurate England. The hosts against the de facto hosts.

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India's top order has been the key to the team's success, something that could prove to be either a boon or a bane.

Solidity at top
On the one hand it shows stability at the top, with Shikhar Dhawan averaging over 100 this tournament. His lowest score has been 48.

Opening partner Rohit Sharma has looked in fine touch right up to the time he throws his wicket away with careless and imprudent shots.

Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik have added to a stable top order. The flipside is that MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina have face 26 and 10 balls in the tournament.

Add to that a dangerous English pace attack led by the irrepressible James Anderson, and the threat compounds. Dhoni, though, is confident the batsman would pull through.

“The English team is a very good team, especially the bowlers, and what we are positive about is the fact our top order, they have done well. I think they are quite well prepared for the English bowlers," he said.

Trott, the anchor
England's top-order has been solid, but they've been prone to middle-order collapses. Against Australia they went from 189/2 to 213/6 before Ravi Bopara salvaged their innings. Bopara again provided the fireworks after 218/2 to 254/7 against Sri Lanka.

If Bopara has been the unquestionable finisher, Jonathon Trott has been the sheet anchor.

Although some sections of the media here have been unpleased with the 'slow' batting of the England top-three --- captain Alistair Cook, Ian Bell and Trott, the South Africa-born batsman has a strike-rate close to 90. He's also played two match-winning innings.

Dhoni, though, isn't quite worried about the strike-rate as much as the runs.

"Well, I think they've played proper cricket. To say whether their approach was right or not, it's not for me to decide. As a team you want to win. That's one thing that you desperately want to do. And second comes the entertainment aspect where you want to hit sixes and fours. But first and foremost you know you want to win a game, and I think that's what they have been doing," he said.

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The match also has the threat of rain to contend with. On the eve of the match intermittent rain and grey clouds hung ominously over Edgbaston.

India have already been involved in one Champions Trophy final that was washed out, in 2002 against Sri Lanka. That one had a rest day, which was also washed out. For this edition, however, there isn't a rest day.

The last edition of the Champions Trophy has been an exciting, compact tournament. Let’s hope at the end of it there’s no damp squib.

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