George Bailey's CT17 final preview

18 June 2017

The two captains Virat Kohli and Sarfraz Ahmed pose with the Champions Trophy silverware // Getty

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Former ODI skipper looks back at Australia's campaign, Virat Kohli's hot form and gives his tip for the India-Pakistan Trophy decider

About the Writer:

George Bailey has played 90 one-day internationals and captained Australia at the 2013 Champions Trophy. He is currently in the UK playing for English county side Hampshire.

There were a few parallels between the way Australia exited the Champions Trophy last week and how England were knocked out a few days ago.

Like I said after Australia went home early, losing one game against a very good team who performed very well on the day doesn't automatically make them a bad side. And it's the same for England.

This tournament was a great opportunity for the home side and they were playing some great cricket, but there's never an easy game at events like this. There will always be 'favourites' and I think if England played Pakistan 20 times, they'd probably win 15 of those. But on the day, Pakistan were simply too good.

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The condition of the pitch in Cardiff was a major talking point after the match but knowing Eoin Morgan pretty well, he wasn't using that as an excuse. He's not an excuse maker. He's pretty realistic and pragmatic and I think he was just pointing out that the conditions didn't work in his side's favour. Which is true.

I certainly don't have a problem with a worn wicket being used at a major tournament, even for the bigger games. It wasn't like the situation was sprung on anyone at the last minute; it was always going to happen when there's just three venues in use. And teams had been speaking about it all tournament so both sides knew it was coming.

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The fact that you can get those subtle differences in conditions is one of the reasons I love cricket so much. You can play on the same ground two days in a row and the two wickets can play completely differently. And to be honest, I think high-scoring games over and over again can be really boring for everyone involved. As we've seen at times in this tournament, I still think the best games of one-day cricket are when there's a contest between bat and ball and it's low-scoring.

England's exit also told us that the gap between the best and the worst of these eight teams is probably as tight as it's ever been, and what may seem like a tiny factor could make all the difference. Teams can be knocked out and they might try and dig down into the reasons why – and those things can certainly be relevant – but it's possible that it could come down to batting first instead of second. As it was for England in Cardiff.

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It's been interesting to note that of the 12 completed matches in this tournament, nine have been won by the team batting second. Gone are the days in one-day cricket where teams try and win the toss and set a massive total; no target is safe these days so batting second seems to be the way to go.

You simply have no way of knowing what a good total is on a pitch until both teams have batted on it, so it's always better to chase. If a team does concede a big score on what turns out to be a flat surface, they'll simply back themselves to chase it down. But if there's a bit in it for the bowlers, as there has been throughout this tournament, the team batting first still feels like they have to go pretty hard because the chasing team will always be confident of chasing a score down.

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And given Pakistan's desire to bowl first and India's love of chasing, the toss could be a big factor in what should be a brilliant spectacle on Sunday.

I know often when we've played matches in Australia against teams from the subcontinent, the noise from the crowd can make it feel like an away game. And there will be the same sense on Sunday when thousands of Indian and Pakistani fans pack into The Oval.

The passion and devotion of fans from the subcontinent is always spoken about and it really is hard to put it into words.

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I always laugh when you're over in somewhere like India because they always talk about high levels of security and you're surrounded by police cars whenever you're in the bus on the way to the ground. But whenever you get close to the stadium, things always slow to a crawl because the buses simply get mobbed. People are just so excited to catch a glimpse of their heroes that they just stand on the road and don't let the bus go any further.

And the hotels are the same. Even after IPL games, it can be 1am or sometimes even later by the time we get back to the hotel, but the lobby is always heaving with people. There's just fans everywhere, young kids are still awake and it's a real eye-opener to how passionate the fans are and how highly revered the players are.

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I truly think that's one of the reasons why Indian players traditionally perform so well on the big stage. They have so much scrutiny on them from such a young age and the IPL has just added another layer to that. So by the time they start playing international cricket, that level of pressure isn't as much of a jump for them as it would be for a player from Australia or New Zealand. That's starting to change back home with the Big Bash League, but it's still not on the same level. I always admire the Indian players on that front because that pressure growing up when they're emerging players is something else.

No one embodies that pressure quite as much as Virat Kohli, who seems to be back to his absolute best. As an opposing captain, you can feel pretty helpless against him sometimes, particularly in a run chase. The game just seems to move away from you so quickly when he's controlling things like that.

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But it's not just Virat. The way Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have been batting allows Virat to play as he wants because he has such faith in those around him. It means he can go out and play with a real sense of freedom knowing that if it doesn't work out, there's other class batsmen to help him out. And that's the strength of Indian cricket. They've been amazing again in this tournament and it's no surprise to see them in another final.

In saying that, everyone was concerned about Australia's lack of batting practice heading into their crucial game against England and I think India might have the same concerns. Their middle order hasn't been under the pump because their top order has been so dominant. So it'll be interesting to see if Pakistan can take a couple of early wickets and put a bit of pressure on. But the way India are batting at the moment, that's a big if.

I've leant towards India for most of the tournament and I still think they'll win the final on Sunday. They've had the wood over Pakistan in major tournaments and I think India always tend to respond to the hype of a final and playing against their big rivals. Pakistan could definitely beat them if everything goes their way, but I think if you played this game 20 or 50 times, India would win a lot more games that Pakistan. So I have to tip India.

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)

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