COLOMBO: Pakistan will look to extend their dominant form and put India on the brink of elimination when the old foes clash in the World Twenty20 on Sunday.
Pakistan have never beaten India in either the 50-over World Cup or the World Twenty20, but Mohammad Hafeez’s men start as favourites in the much-awaited Super Eights game in Colombo.
Pakistan are the team in form, winning both matches in the preliminary league before stunning top-ranked South Africa by two wickets in their first Super Eights game on Friday.
In contrast, Australia annihilated India by nine wickets later the same evening, leaving Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men needing to beat Pakistan and South Africa to stay in contention for the semi-finals.
But if Australia beat South Africa and Pakistan defeat India in Sunday’s double-header, both winners will advance to the semi-finals from what was billed as the “group of death”.
Pakistan seamer Umar Gul, an unlikely hero with the bat against South Africa with a power-packed 32 off 17 balls, said: “When we play India there is lot of pressure because our people always want us to win.
“The same is the case in India, so there will be pressure on both teams.
“Anything can happen. We will give it our best shot. India is a very good team, but we know each other’s strong and weak points. In T20 it all depends on how a team plays on that day.”
India, winners of the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007, failed to win even one Super Eights game in the next two editions, in England in 2009 and the Caribbean in 2010.
Skipper Dhoni, however, put a positive spin on his team’s do-or-die scenario ahead of the sold-out game at the 35,000-capacity Premadasa Stadium.
“It is always good to be in a situation where you have to win every game,” he said.
“There is no scope for complacency and that is a good thing. You have to be at your best throughout.
“Hopefully we can go out and express ourselves without worrying too much about the result.”
India and Pakistan have played just two official Twenty20 internationals against each other, both during the 2007 tournament.
The league match in Durban ended in a tie before India won the bowl-out.
The two sides met again in the final in Johannesburg, which India won by five runs in the final over.
Before the current showpiece started, Pakistan defeated India by five wickets in a practice match in Colombo on September 17, with Kamran Akmal smashing an unbeaten 92 off 50 balls.
Pakistan, chasing India’s commanding 185-3, slipped to 91-5 before Akmal and former captain Shoaib Malik turned the game around with a brilliant unbroken stand of 95 off 46 balls.
Akmal plundered six sixes, including the winning shot off seamer Irfan Pathan which sailed over the cover fence. Malik remained unbeaten on 37 off 18 balls.
Cricket ties between the neighbours, suspended after the Mumbai attacks in 2008, are set to resume in December when Pakistan tour India for three one-dayers and two Twenty20 games.