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Monday, 22 October, 2018

India can make fast start against rivals

Kohli's men 4-9 to outclass Pakistan

Shoaib Malik made his one-day debut for Pakistan in 1999
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Champions Trophy
Sky Sports 2 & Sky Sports Mix, 10.30am Sunday
India beat Pakistan at Edgbaston on their way to lifting the Champions Trophy in 2013 and Virat Kohli's men are 4-9 for another victory at the venue in the latest chapter of cricket's fiercest rivalry.

It has been a predictable story when Pakistan have faced their neighbours at major tournaments recently, with India winning their last five World Twenty20, Champions Trophy and World Cup meetings.

The margins of victory in those matches - eight wickets, eight wickets, seven wickets, 76 runs and six wickets - tells a sorry tale for Pakistan and they are 15-8 to stop the rot in Birmingham.

There have been some recent positives for their one-day side with youngster Babar Azam scoring five centuries in his first 26 ODIs, Mohammad Amir returning from a five-year ban, and teenage leg spinner Shadab Khan forcing his way into the squad.

However, they have been demolished 4-1 by Australia and England in the last year and India - even in unfamiliar conditions - should be formidable opponents.

One area in which Pakistan traditionally have the edge over India is fast bowling but that may not be the case this year with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav fit and firing and 23-year-old Jasprit Bumrah developing into a top-class talent.

Captain Kohli is at the heart of a solid batting unit featuring openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan and the vast experience of Yuvraj Singh and former skipper MS Dhoni in the middle-order.

Pakistan, in contrast, reached 300 only once in their five ODIs in England last year (and that was in a dead rubber at Cardiff after the hosts had stormed into a 4-0 lead).

Best bets
An injury to KL Rahul means Sharma and Dhawan are reunited at the top of the order for India and they can help the favourites make a faster start than their opponents.

Both men have had injury problems but both enjoyed good campaigns in the Indian Premier League, with Dhawan scoring heavily and Sharma captaining Mumbai to the title.

The left-hand/right-hand combination can unsettle opposing bowlers and both openers relish the big occasions. Sharma is the only batsman to have scored two double-centuries in ODIs while Dhawan was the leading runscorer at the 2013 Champions Trophy.

Number three Kohli usually comes to the wicket bristling with attacking intent and India look a solid bet to outscore Pakistan in the first 15 overs.

They won the heat 78-56 at Edgbaston four years ago, when Kumar and Yadav kept things tight with the new ball, and Pakistan openers Azhar Ali and Ahmed Shehzad are hardly the most destructive pair in the tournament.

If India's talented fast bowlers are incisive early on then Shoaib Malik could have a big role to play at number five in the Pakistan order.

Hugely experienced - he made his one-day debut in October 1999, shortly after his teammate Shadab's first birthday - Shoaib has been in fine form, scoring 101 not out against the West Indies in his last ODI innings.

He signed off last year's series against England with 77 in the victory at Cardiff and top-scored with 72 in the warm-up game against Bangladesh at Edgbaston last weekend.

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Venue
The first game at Edgbaston ended in a no result between Australia and New Zealand, but not before Kane Williamson's classy century had propelled the Kiwis to 291 all out in 45 overs.

England's openers Jason Roy and Alex Hales put on an unbroken stand of 256 in last year's ten-wicket win over Sri Lanka and India have won their last three ODIs in Birmingham, bowling out Pakistan for 165 in the 2013 Champions Trophy.

Team news
Fast bowlers Kumar, Bumrah, Yadav and Shami are competing for places in the India 11 while Ravichandran Ashwin will miss out if they decide to play only one spinner.

Faheem Ashraf impressed in the warm-up win over Bangladesh and could make his one-day debut for Pakistan, who must choose between left-arm quicks Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan.

Weather
Bright start but showers forecast later in the afternoon, 17C.

It has been a predictable story when Pakistan have faced their neighbours at major tournaments recently, with India winning their last five meetings
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