Richard Mann’s preview for Pakistan vs. England’s T20 World Cup final on Sunday includes three bets ranging from 20/1 to 4/6.
Pakistan vs. England in the T20 World Cup final
- 3 points England will have the highest first six overs score of 4/6. (General)
- 1pt Ben Stokes is 14/1 to be named Man of the Match (Sky Bet)
- Iftikhar Ahmed is 1pt to be Man of the Match at 20/1. (General)
When England were defeated by Ireland in their second Super 12 match at the MCG, and Pakistan were defeated by Zimbabwe shortly after, an England-Pakistan final seemed unlikely. Almost impossible.
Alex Hales was dropped by England on the eve of the 50-over World Cup three years ago for yet another disciplinary issue, and he has not played for England since. His international career appeared to be over, just as it appeared when Hales was not named to England’s initial World Cup squad.
However, a freak injury to Jonny Bairstow provided Hales with a lifeline and a plane ticket to Australia, before Pakistan recovered from a 43-4 deficit against South Africa, then watched the Proteas suffer a shock defeat to the Netherlands, before Babar Azam’s side scrambled home against Bangladesh only hours later to reach the semi-finals.
In Group 1, Hales and England were in a similar precarious position, but the Nottinghamshire batsman, along with Ben Stokes – famously an old friend and more recently an apparent foe – guided England to a scrappy victory over Sri Lanka and into the knockout stages.
Babar, for his part, shrugged off a poor run of form to produce a magnificent half-century that turned a potentially difficult run chase into a relatively easy semi-final victory over New Zealand. England, brave and bold, smashed a timid India 24 hours later with an unbroken opening stand of 170 in only 16 overs from Hales and Buttler.
Then it’s England vs. Pakistan at the MCG. The winner takes it all. No one saw that coming when Ireland and Zimbabwe pulled off seismic upsets that will go down in T20 World Cup history.
Fearless England and perilous Pakistan deliver
Tournament play, like so many other sports, is all about peaking at the right time. Finding a way to get to the later stages by any means possible, and then putting on your best performance in the big games when everything is on the line.
It’s not a good idea to peak too soon. Just ask India, who defeated Pakistan in the Super 12s, or South Africa, who appeared unstoppable until Pakistan’s previously struggling middle-order threw them off track. Even New Zealand was fearless when thrashing Australia, but ponderous and nervous when the knockouts arrived.
England is brave and daring. Pakistan is unpredictable, but oh so talented, with an unrivaled bowling attack. What a grand finale we could have.
England will be heavy favourites, possibly as an overreaction to their 10-wicket win over India, with Pakistan as big as 13/10 at the time of writing.
Given England’s recent dominance in white-ball cricket, the favourites tag is well deserved, but Pakistan were outstanding against New Zealand, as they were in the home straight against South Africa.
Pakistan has a clear advantage with the ball. Their attack has been the best on show throughout the tournament, and if Mark Wood isn’t passed fit, Haris Rauf, a fully firing Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, and Mohammad Wasim outpace England in terms of pace and skill.
Sam Curran has been outstanding throughout, even a revelation, and Chris Woakes has had his moments, but Pakistan’s pace stocks are deeper, more intimidating, and have yet to be truly stretched. Both teams have world-class wrist spinners in Adil Rashid and Shadab Khan, but Pakistan is the speed king.
Another source of concern for England fans is how poorly they performed during their previous visit to the MCG, when Ireland’s bowlers made England’s top order look ordinary.
On Thursday, conditions in Adelaide were flat, with short square boundaries enticing, but Melbourne is vast, and the pitch generally has something for bowlers. Buttler’s team will face a new challenge.
Melbourne weather forecast
With plenty of rain in Melbourne – though conditions have improved slightly since the recent spate of washouts – expect Afridi to pitch the ball up early and look for sideways movement to test England’s top order. Following that, Rauf and Naseem will attack the pitch with pace and bounce, hoping to entice England to take on the big square boundaries.
However, when it clicks, England’s batting line-up is very strong, and having Liam Livingstone penciled in at number seven, with Curran and Woakes to follow, gives them depth that Pakistan cannot match.
While Pakistan has the superior bowling attack, the balance of power shifts in the batting department. Up top, Babar and Mohammad Rizwan are brilliant, and the middle order has started to fire again, but England’s depth and power are superior.
Clearly, conditions will play a role in how this plays out, and if the skies are clear and the pitch is suitable for batting, England may have too many guns in a potentially high-scoring match. Pakistan will be interested in the job if the bowlers maintain their dominance and something in the region of 160 becomes par.
At this point, the weather, in particular, discourages me from betting in the match market. I believe there are trading opportunities with taking the outsider, in this case Pakistan, but I’m content to sit this one out and look elsewhere.
Aggressive England has a chance to win the early race
The best bet of the game is in the HIGHEST FIRST 6 OVERS SCORE market, where England is worth a rare investment at odds-on (4/6).
Pakistan’s opening partnership has been extremely successful, but their strategy has always been to begin cautiously and then pick up the pace later. Their powerplay score of 55-0 against New Zealand was easily their best of the tournament, with the next best being 42-3 against South Africa.
England, led by Hales and Buttler, has taken the opposite approach, managing 37-3 despite struggling in tough batting conditions against Ireland – their lowest powerplay total of the competition. England’s most recent powerplay performances were 70-0 against Sri Lanka and 63-0 against India.
The bowling attack of Pakistan will present a different challenge, but it will not deter England from attacking, and they are strong favorites in this market.
Stokes is set to shine once more on the big stage
I started the piece by naming unlikely heroes, and two more names to fall into that bracket complete the staking plan, with both worth small investments in the Man of the Match market.
BEN STOKES was Man of the Match in the 50-over World Cup final at Lord’s three years ago, somehow forcing a Super Over with New Zealand, which England eventually won on the last ball.
Stokes has since become Test captain, retired from ODI cricket, and only made a few appearances in this format. He did not participate in this year’s IPL. And it has been demonstrated.
Despite England’s insistence that he bat in the crucial number four position, Stokes appeared sluggish at the start of this World Cup. And then, when England needed him most, he delivered, anchoring England’s shaky run chase against Sri Lanka with an unbeaten 42.
The Durham all-rounder has made a career out of saving his best cricket for the biggest games and moments, and he delivered once again with England’s hopes on the line. This week, I heard Stokes described as “the greatest clutch sportsman of all time,” and while fans of Tiger Woods, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Roger Federer may disagree, Lord’s and Headingley help make a compelling case.
His inconsistent form may suggest otherwise, but I believe Stokes will have a significant impact on Sunday. There are also tactical reasons to believe so.
Stokes has performed admirably with the new ball in this World Cup, and if he can get it swinging and nick off one of Pakistan’s big fish early, he has the potential to shape the game in England’s favor.
Furthermore, how England responds to Pakistan’s leg spinner Shadab will be critical, but the left-handed Stokes will have an immediate advantage here and is a fantastic spinner.
And if he can get rid of Shadab, Pakistan may be forced to turn to their batting all-rounder IFTIKHAR AHMED, whose off spin is underrated and may be required to get through some overs against an England top eight that includes plenty of left-handers, with or without Dawid Malan.
Iftikhar bowled well against Bangladesh in a similar situation, but it’s his calm middle-order batting that has really impressed me. He bats like Misbah-ul-Haq, which isn’t a bad thing, with half-centuries against South Africa and India both coming in high-pressure situations against strong bowling attacks.
He also hit a fifty against India on this ground, and he’s the type of character I want on my side in a big game like this.
Iftikhar is an unlikely hero, not a household name like Babar or Rizwan. Stokes was in the same boat a few weeks ago. And, for that matter, Hales.
To some extent, England and Pakistan are in the same boat, having come back from the brink of disaster and now standing on the verge of the most unlikely T20 World Cup victory.
The best way to watch the T20 World Cup final
England’s T20 World Cup final against Pakistan will be broadcast on free-to-air television after Sky agreed to share coverage with Channel 4.
The match will be simulcast on Channel 4 HD, Sky Sports Cricket, and Sky Sports Main Event at 8 a.m. UK time.
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