Champions Trophy 2017: Semi Final 1, England v Pakistan

First Semi Final - England v Pakistan

Wednesday 14th June, 7:30pm AEST

Hosts England will be looking to progress to consecutive Champions Trophy finals by overcoming Pakistan at Sophia Gardens on Wednesday.


England

Having already wrapped up top spot in Group A, England further enhanced their chances by knocking out fellow contenders Australia on Saturday, remaining unbeaten.

Winning the toss and electing to field, the hosts didn’t get off to the best start as the Aussies reached 1/136 in the 23rd over and looked on track for a sizeable total. However a pair of outstanding spells from paceman Mark Wood (4/33 off ten overs) and leg-spinner Adil Rashid (4/41 off ten overs) triggered a collapse of 8/118 as Australia stumbled to a below-par 9/277.

England’s reply started as poorly as their efforts in the field, slumping to 3/35, however they were saved by a game-changing partnership between captain Eoin Morgan and all-rounder Ben Stokes. Morgan was eventually dismissed for 87 off 81 balls, however Stokes remained unbeaten on 102 off 109 deliveries with England comfortably in front at 4/240 in the 41st over when rain intervened, declaring them victors by 40 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis method.

A sixth consecutive score under 15 has heaped the pressure on opener Jason Roy, with Jonny Bairstow his most likely replacement.


Pakistan

Pakistan clinched their place in the last four with a tense win over Sri Lanka at Sophia Gardens on Monday.

After sending the Sri Lankans into bat, Pakistan’s much vaunted bowling attack maintained their discipline and took wickets in clumps, notably claiming 4/6 through the middle of the innings to restrict their opponents to an underwhelming total of 236. Medium pacer Hasan Ali continued his outstanding form, picking up 3/43 off his ten overs while left-arm quick Junaid Khan was also superb, finishing with 3/40 off his ten.

After opener Fakhar Zaman (50 off 36 balls) bludgeoned his second consecutive half-century at the top of the order, Pakistan looked in control, however they suffered a familiar stumble after the first powerplay, losing 5/45 to put the game right back in the balance.

Although he rode his luck, it was captain Sarfraz Ahmed who steered Pakistan home, finishing unbeaten on 61 off 79 balls and sharing in a crucial 75-run stand with Mohammad Amir who also remained undefeated on 28 from 43 deliveries to secure a three-wicket victory.

Two wickets on debut to Fahim Ashraf (2/37 off 6.2 overs) should be enough to see him retain his place ahead of leg-spinner Shadab Khan.


Sophia Gardens

The side batting second has won two out of three matches played in the tournament at Sophia Gardens, which means the chasing side has now won five of the past eight ODIs here. Interestingly of the 11 half-centuries scored in Cardiff over the three matches, just two have been converted into hundreds. England have won six of their last eight ODIs at Sophia Gardens with Liam Plunkett averaging an impressive 14.14 with the ball at this ground.


Key Stats

  • England have now won seven of their past eight ODIs at home.
  • England have won six of their past eight ODIs at Sophia Gardens.
  • England’s opponents have hit more sixes than them only once in their past 12 ODIs.
  • Pakistan have won four of their last five ODIs away from home.
  • However Pakistan have won only one of their past eight ODIs against England.

The Verdict

England are warm favourites to continue their unbeaten run through the competition with Pakistan clear underdogs to progress to their first ever Champions Trophy final.

The hosts have shown why they went into the tournament as favourites with three wins from three, including relatively comfortable victories over both 2015 World Cup finalists. They have been tested at different stages throughout all three games, however have found a way to get back on top without relying on a core of individuals as the responsibility has been shared across the entire team.

There is undoubtedly still some room for improvement and they may need it, with their powerful batting line-up coming up against Pakistan’s formidable attack. England do clearly hold the edge here but I don’t fancy it will be straightforward and therefore cannot justify siding with the home side at starting price.

Despite a fairly uninspiring record in this format of late, Pakistan have shown adaptability away from their adopted home in the UAE and a decision to freshen up the squad with previously uncapped players such as Zaman and Ashraf has paid dividends. After a poor start against India, their bowling attack has certainly held its own although they do face a significant challenge up against England’s deep and dangerous batting unit.

One notable concern is how quickly their top-order, aside from Zaman, has been scoring, with the likes of Azhar AliBabar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez all striking at less than 70 runs per 100 balls which could be a problem if the pitch is particularly flat. A semi-final in a major ICC tournament is also unchartered territory for much of Pakistan’s squad so while I don’t wish to oppose them from the off, I couldn’t be backing them either.

One area where I do feel that England have a more pronounced advantage is in the six-hitting department. With their approach to ODI cricket reformed since the last World Cup, England’s opponents have only managed to clear the fence more often than them once in their past 12 ODIs. In that time England have averaged nearly six maximums, while conceding an average of less than three.

In Pakistan’s last 12 ODIs they have only ended up on the positive side of the six ledger twice, hitting an average of 3.6, while conceding an average of 4.5. Furthermore over the course of this tournament Pakistan have not had a batsman who has hit more than one six, while England have five who have hit at least three. Therefore I’ll be backing England to clear the ropes more frequently than their opponents in this one.


Betting Strategy

 Back England Most Sixes at 1.50 or bigger for 2 units


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