After a relatively successful 2012 in the limited overs arena, India were expected to win this One Day series against Pakistan quite comfortably. But as MS Dhoni’s men head into the final game, they are playing for mere pride (6.30am GMT, Sunday).
Pakistan have somehow added consistency to their considerable talent to take an unassailable 2-0 lead and Mohammad Hafeez’ squad will be desperate to secure a 3-0 series whitewash in Sunday’s final contest.
Having taken those first two games, it might be a surprise not to see Pakistan installed as favourites and they are certainly the value bet. The key to providing a return on those odds lies in a prolific batting order allied to some outstanding individual bowlers.
Nasir Jamshed has deservedly taken the headlines after back to back centuries in the opening matches and he will undoubtedly be a key player in this contest. Jamshed has made three consecutive hundreds against India and the home side will know that they need to target his wicket.
But it’s not just Jamshed providing the runs to guide the visitors home as Younis Khan and Mohammad Hafeez have both made half centuries in this series so far. One concern for the tourists however is the lack of support from the middle and lower orders and that was highlighted by a collapse in Kolkata as Pakistan slid from 210-4 to 250 all out.
Those batsmen haven’t really needed to perform as yet but if Pakistan’s top three are dismissed cheaply, India will sense that they can secure this consolation win.
As for the Indians themselves, it has simply been a case of underachieving, particularly in the batting department where skipper Dhoni has been required to do the bulk of the run scoring.
The captain has been in great form but as a middle order batsman, he shouldn’t be put under so much pressure. In this final contest, the focus will be on the openers, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gabhir, together with the middle order who simply haven’t scored enough runs in this series.
In truth, Pakistan’s bowling doesn’t offer too much of a threat as a unit. The giant, 7ft 1inch Mohammad Irfan is getting plenty of headlines but the left arm paceman has figures of 1-104 from two games and is being taken for more than five runs per over.
However, there are two standout performers in Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal who have taken advantage of the hosts’ poor form. Umar Gul is hitting his best rhythm too but with respect to the Pakistani attack, the Indian batsmen are far better than their performances are currently suggesting.
The key to this whole contest could lie in the Indians will to win it. We’ve seen a distinct lack of fight in this side when they’ve gone behind in any series in any form of the game and if they display that attitude again, Pakistan will claim their coveted series whitewash.
This Preview’s Betting Tip: Pakistan to win at 6/5 with Ladbrokes.