MELBOURNE: A confident England will look to deny Pakistan a fairytale finish in Sunday’s Twenty20 World Cup final and become the first nation to hold both global white-ball trophies — if Melbourne’s fickle weather permits.
Heavy rain could disrupt the Melbourne Cricket Ground showdown and even see the teams crowned joint champions if unable to complete a match of at least 10 overs per side by the end of the reserve day on Monday.
However, conditions should hold up long enough to deliver a contest between the two nations who played for the 50-overs World Cup 30 years ago at the MCG.
Read: Weather permitting, T20 greatness is in Babar’s grasp
After shaky starts both hit top gear in the semi-finals, with Pakistan easing to a seven-wicket win over New Zealand in Sydney and England humiliating India by 10 wickets in Adelaide.
Pakistan, the 2009 champions, have had a charmed tournament since pushed to the brink of elimination by Zimbabwe, with the Netherlands helping them into the semi-finals by eliminating South Africa.
Thirty years after Imran Khan’s Pakistan claimed the 1992 World Cup, Babar Azam’s team may feel it is their destiny to deliver trophy.
“Of course the similarities are (there),” Babar told reporters of the 1992 final.
“But we will try to win the trophy as it is an honour for me to lead this team, especially in this big ground.”
Pakistan Cricket Board chief Ramiz Raja, who opened the batting and took the final catch that sealed victory in the 1992 final, shared memories of the tournament with Babar’s team on Friday.
“When the chairman came and shared his experience of the World Cup, it put a massive boost in our confidence,” said Babar.
“He advised us to stay calm and focus on what goes well.”
Babar told his rejuvenated Pakistan side to ride the wave of four consecutive victories and win the World Cup final.
“We have lost the first two matches, (but) the way we came back the last four matches, we’ve performed very well,” he said.
“I’m more excited than nervous… it is no doubt that pressure exists, but it can only be suppressed with confidence and belief in ourselves. And for good results it is important that one must do so.”
The 27-year-old urged the fans to fans to keep praying for the delivery of their second title.
“The Pakistan nation has always been our backbone. They uphold us through their enthusiasm. I would again request them to support us and keep praying.”
Pakistan are slight underdogs against Jos Buttler’s England, but Babar is banking on the strength of his fast bowlers to give them an edge, particularly in the six-over powerplay.
“England is a competitive team, their (10-wicket) win to reach the finals against India was a proof of that,” he said.
“Our strategy is to stick to our plan and use our pace attack as our strength to win the finals.
“Utilising the powerplay to grab as many wickets will be essential for the match.”
Notwithstanding any late injuries, Pakistan are set to name the same team with Shaheen Shah Afridi spearheading a dangerous attack and Babar and Mohammad Rizwan headlining the batting.
England, the reigning 50-overs world champions, are looking to win a second global T20 title after their 2010 triumph and to build on the legacy of former captain Eoin Morgan, who transformed the team into a white-ball juggernaut.
New skipper Buttler had big shoes to fill following Morgan’s retirement but has led from the front with rehabilitated opener Alex Hales.
Opening partnerships were decisive in the semi-finals, with Buttler and Hales routing India with a 170-run stand the night after Babar and Rizwan set up victory over New Zealand with a 105-run stand.
Both teams’ bowlers will be under pressure to strike early, lest the game quickly get away from them.
. Neither have had success in this tournament at the MCG, though, with Pakistan losing a Super 12 thriller to arch-rivals India and England having their sole blemish against Ireland in a rain-hit upset.
“Obviously the Ireland match is a big disappointment for us as a team throughout this tournament, but certainly feels a long time ago now,” said Buttler.
“I think we’ve seen a reaction to that game in the rest of the cricket we’ve played so far.”
England could opt to bring back express paceman Mark Wood and number three batsman Dawid Malan if the pair are fit.
The final has been billed as a battle between Pakistan’s vaunted pace attack and England’s top order, but both sides boast other weapons.
England’s Sam Curran has been a fearless death bowler while leg-spinner Adil Rashid proved an unlikely hero against India.
Pakistan all-rounder Shadab Khan has captured 10 wickets at the tournament and their maligned middle order carried the team while Babar and Rizwan struggled.
The crowd will be dominated by an army of green-clad Pakistan fans but it may have little impact on England, who delighted in silencing the massive crowd of India supporters at Adelaide Oval.
Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2022