ICC Champions Trophy 2017

Once bitten Pakistan primed for CT17 final

Defeat in their tournament opener to bitter rivals India has underdogs ready for revenge, says Azhar Ali

Martin Smith in London

18 June 2017, 11:22 AM AEST

'Fearless' Fakhar firing for Trophy final

Pakistan opener Azhar Ali says his side's group stage thrashing at the hands of fierce rivals India will hold them in good stead for the return bout in Sunday's Champions Trophy final in London.

While Indian skipper Virat Kohli revealed today that staying off social media during the tournament has been a key for him to stay focused on his cricket, Azhar says Pakistan are ready to embrace the hype and pressure of a match that looks set to break television viewing records for a Champions Trophy contest.

Quick Single: Kohli's social media detox for Trophy final

Following their thrashing against India at Edgbaston a fortnight ago, coach Mickey Arthur conceded Pakistan had struggled to cope with the enormous expectation that comes with matches against India, one of the world's biggest and most passionate sporting rivalries.

Kohli carnage as India batters go bananas

Of the 11 Pakistan players that beat England on Wednesday - the return of injured quick Mohammad Amir for Sunday's final is their only anticipated change - Babar Azam, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan had their very first taste of India-Pakistan cricket in Birmingham a fortnight ago.

And Azhar believes the fact that four of their likely starting XI for Sunday's final now have a maiden clash against India under their belts will make them better equipped to handle the heat at The Oval on Sunday.

Quick Single: Amir confirmed for Champs Trophy final

"We've had a taste of it now so I think players will learn from it," Azhar told cricket.com.au. "This is the second game in the same tournament so I definitely think this time around we will have a better response.

"A lot of players in this team were facing India for the first time in an ICC event so it would have been different for all of them. But now they have a taste of it and things will be right this time.

"Obviously it's a big game and there's a lot of expectations. 

"We have seen a lot of happiness in our country and (our fans have) supported us through this tournament. I know after the first game everyone wasn’t happy, but the boys have lifted themselves and after that we've brought the smiles back to the nation.

"They're all behind us and hopefully we can get them all a good result on Sunday."

Fakhar tunes up for Champions Trophy final

Despite Azhar's confidence, the weight of recent history is strongly in favour of India to defend their Champions Trophy title. Pakistan have won just one of their past eight matches against their biggest cricketing enemy and haven't beaten them at a major international tournament since the 2009 Champions Trophy.

Even though India are warm favourites, skipper Virat Kohli said his side isn't "too arrogant" to go into the tournament decider thinking they already have the title in their hands.

Quick Single: No kidding, Hasan could be the GOAT

"I don't see any relevance of the first game here because you can never tell how a particular team starts a tournament," Kohli said on Saturday.

"Some teams start very confidently and then they fade off. Some teams might not have the best starts, and they come back amazingly, which Pakistan has done.

"So everyone is aware of the kind of talent they have in their team, and on their day they can beat any side in the world. 

"That's the kind of players they have, and that's the kind of ability they have in their side.

"So we're quite aware of that but at the same time, neither are we too intimidated nor are we too arrogant about what we are doing.

"It's important to maintain the balance of being confident in your own skill and what you are doing as a team."

Paupers to heroes: Arthur eyes India redemption

No matter what the official global television audience is for the final - wildly speculative figures exceeding one billion people have been reported - the match will bring cricket lovers in at least two countries to a standstill when it gets underway at 7.30pm AEST (late afternoon India and Pakistan Standard time).

While Kohli, one of the most marketable athletes in the world, is used to dealing with high expectations, he says staying away from social media during this tournament has be a key learning from his first major ICC event as captain.

Quick Single: India clash has London calling for Arthur's men

"The biggest thing is to stay off social media," he said.

"Honestly, it sounds funny, but it's so important to stay away from those things, to connect to things that matter, the things that a sportsman needs to take care of. 

"If you're too distracted listening to too many suggestions or praise or criticism, then you can't focus on what you need to think as a sportsman.

"(Big television audiences) is a part of being an Indian cricketer and then having performed for a few years obviously expectations go up. You have to find a way to deal with it.

"You have to maintain a balance and then focus on what you need to do on the field. I think I've been able to strike a good balance until now, and yeah, I'm sure I'll be fine."

Champions Trophy 2017 Guide

Squads: Every Champions Trophy nation


1 JuneEngland beat Bangladesh by eight wickets

2 JuneNew Zealand v Australia, No Result

3 JuneSri Lanka lost to South Africa by 96 runs

4 June – India beat Pakistan by 124 runs

5 JuneAustralia v Bangladesh, No Result

6 JuneEngland beat New Zealand by 87 runs

7 JunePakistan beat South Africa by 19 runs (DLS method)

8 JuneSri Lanka beat India by seven wickets

9 JuneBangladesh beat New Zealand by five wickets

10 JuneEngland beat Australia by 40 runs (DLS method)

11 JuneIndia beat South Africa by eight wickets

12 JunePakistan beat Sri Lanka by three wickets

14 JuneFirst semi-final: England lost to Pakistan by eight wkts

15 JuneSecond semi-final: Bangladesh lost to India by nine wickets

18 JuneFinal: Pakistan v India, The Oval (D)

19 June – Reserve day (D)