The heavy rain which has plagued this stop-start ICC Cricket World Cup is set to move away this weekend but there will still be the threat of showers at Old Trafford on Sunday when unbeaten India meet their great rivals Pakistan in a game that is due to be played in front of a television audience in excess of one billion!

I was fortunate enough to witness the rivalry first-hand back in the 1999 tournament when India beat Pakistan at Old Trafford by a comfortable 47 runs despite scoring just 227 on a grey Manchester day. Pakistan have lost all six World Cup ties between the proud nations and they are 2/1 to break that sequence at the weekend with India 2/5 favourites.

Pakistan were brushed aside by West Indies in their opening round-robin game, but they showed their true colours when beating favourites England in a high-scoring game at Trent Bridge. They could, and probably should, have beaten Australia at Taunton midweek with the soft dismissals of Babar Zaman and Mohammed Hafeez pivotal when both looked as if they were on the brink of taking the game away from the Baggy Greens.

The multinational TV commentary team – who have ranged from good to deplorable (see Sourav Ganguly) – were universal in their criticism of the Pakistani management team at the toss for leaving out leg spinner Shadab Khan in favour of a fourth seamer. Note to the commentators; there were 20 overs of spin bowled at Taunton over the two innings with figures of 2-157. Aaron Finch picked up one of the wickets as a result of a knee-high full toss which had Hafeez in two minds – he didn’t know whether to hit it for four or six and in the end hit it straight down deep square legs throat.

I would persevere with the four-pronged pace attack for Pakistan against the unbeaten Indians who were excellent against a rather subdued Australia at the Oval on Sunday. Virat Kohli’s side were washed out against New Zealand at Trent Bridge on Thursday and they must do without their century-maker from the Oval Shikar Dhawan who fractured his thumb courtesy of Pat Cummins in London.

MOHALI, INDIA - MARCH 10: Shikhar Dhawan of India acknowledges the crowd after he was dismissed during game four of the One Day International series between India and Australia at Punjab Cricket Association Stadium on March 10, 2019 in Mohali, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

KL Rahul will open the innings for India at Old Trafford and he and Rohit Sharma will face a severe examination at the hands of Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir. India’s spinners have done a fine job so far this tournament, but I wonder if Kohli will give Mohammed Shami a game in Manchester and have his own four-man pace attack?

We have yet to see this Old Trafford pitch this tournament, but it will be difficult for the groundsman to have done much work on the strip this week because of the recent rains. I don’t expect to see the side batting first to score 300+ and one of my recommendations would be for there NOT to be a century scored in the game at 11/10 with BetVictor.

It is 17/20 that India’s first wicket falls with the score above/below 37.5 and this is a very good Pakistan attack. Rohit Sharma is a class act, but he would not be human if he didn’t have nerves ahead of such a huge occasion.

TAUNTON, ENGLAND - JUNE 12: Mohammad Amir of Pakistan celebrates taking the wicket of Mitchell Starc of Australia with his teammates during the Group Stage match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between Australia and Pakistan at The County Ground on June 12, 2019 in Taunton, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

If Pakistan could be relied upon to take their catches and field almost as well as India, then 2/1 is too big. But they are their own worst enemy.

It promises to be a great game and a fantastic global sporting occasion. Let’s hope the Manchester weather relents in time.


A century NOT to be scored in the game

India’s to lose their first wicket below 37.5 runs


Odds are correct at the time of posting

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