Pakistan bowl against India in World Cup showpiece

The Pakistan vs India fixture effectively become a ‘must-win’ game for Pakistan if they are to finish in the top four teams who will qualify for the semi-finals from the round-robin group phase. (AFP pic)

MANCHESTER: Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed decided to give his bowlers first use of a green-tinged pitch in a crucial World Cup match against arch-rivals India at Old Trafford on Sunday.

“We will bowl first,” said Sarfaraz. “India v Pakistan is a big game but we just have to focus on playing our best game.”

India captain Virat Kohli said he would have made the same decision, with the overcast conditions promising to assist Pakistan to spearhead Mohammad Amir, who started the match with a maiden.

Meanwhile, the prospect of rain – which has already washed out four games this World Cup – threatened to reduce the number of overs and so hand an advantage to the side batting second in terms of a possibly revised target.

“We would have bowled first to be honest,” said Kohli at the toss. “The conditions are good for bowling but the wicket looks nice.

“There’s a lot of attention outside of the rope but when you enter the field, it’s about applying the basics of the game.”

Pakistan, who suffered a 41-run loss to Australia in Taunton on Wednesday, are currently ninth in the 10-team table.

That meant this fixture has effectively become a ‘must-win’ game for Pakistan if they are to finish in the top four teams who will qualify for the semi-finals from the round-robin group phase.

They made two changes from the side that lost to Australia, recalling spinners Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim in place of batsman Asif Ali and paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi.

India, whose last match against New Zealand was a complete washout, made one enforced change from the side that beat champions Australia by 36 runs at the Oval.

Vijay Shankar replaced Shikhar Dhawan after the opener suffered a thumb injury while making a hundred in that match.

Kohli’s side have yet to lose at this World Cup after winning their completed group fixtures against both South Africa and Australia.

India have also won all six of their previous World Cup matches against Pakistan.

But Pakistan thrashed their arch-rivals by 180 runs at the Oval in the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy.

More than a billion fans worldwide are expected to watch Sunday’s match between the subcontinental cricket giants.