Who would have thought that after the drubbing they received from India in their first match of the group stage, Pakistan would be contesting the finals of the ICC Champions Trophy.
That they are is due to some brilliant captaincy from Sarfraz Ahmed and greater determination shown in their other games than the one against India. They seemed overawed against India and looked out of their depth but now in the finals it could be a totally different Pakistan team.
For starters they have got in Fakhar Zaman a batsman who has taken the game away from the opposition in the first ten overs itself. He is not afraid to go for the bowling straightaway and with the technically sound Azhar Ali at the other end they make just the kind of combination that opening bowlers don't like. Pakistan's batting hasn't really fired apart from these two though Babar Azam has given glimpses of his precocious talent.
There is the experienced Shoaib Malik and then there is Sarfraz Ahmed who is the one who holds the batting together. His calm cool approach in that nervous run chase against Lanka was what got Pakistan in the semis.
He has also impressed with his captaincy, making clever bowling changes and the way Pakistan’s spinners have strangled the opposition batsmen in the middle overs has been terrific. With Mohd. Amir expected to be back for the finals the new ball attack is as always a formidable one with Junaid Khan and Hasan Ali bowling well too.
India’s openers have been in great touch and Rohit Sharma’s hundred was terrific. Shikhar Dhawan loves the ICC events and with Kohli getting a nice long outing in the middle in the semis, the rest of the batsmen have hardly had a hit.
It's the fielding again that has to get sharper and Kohli must look to get his more athletic fielders in the deep where they can save the boundaries. India probably won't make a change to their line-up and go with the same eleven but if the morning is cloudy and overcast they may think of including another seamer.
India start favourites but the big occasion makes some players raise the level of their game while some others get cowed down by it. We shall see at The Oval which team lifts not just its game but also the trophy.