There is tension. There is continuing hostility. The build-up was dominated by calls for a boycott due to the terror attack in Pulwama. Despite all this, the tickets for this match were sold out in minutes. In terms of numbers, the rivalry has been one-sided. However, when it comes to passion, emotion and nationalistic fervour or jingoism, nothing beats India vs Pakistan clash. Indian fans will keep on harking about the 6-0 scoreline against their arch-rivals. For Pakistan, what began as a process of removing the monkey off the back is now a gorilla off the back. With every passing World Cup, the desperation for Pakistan has been palpable. They have only one mission: Defeat India or face more agony.
The momentum for both sides heading into this contest is stark. Pakistan squandered a golden chance to get the better of five-time champions Australia. India, on the other hand, is operating like a well-oiled machine in both the batting and bowling. The wash-out in Trent Bridge against New Zealand would not have affected India too much. KL Rahul is an ideal fit at the top in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan while either Vijay Shankar or Dinesh Karthik can add more depth to either the batting or the bowling.
However, Pakistan is known to be mercurial and India cannot take them lightly. Mohammad Amir, who ripped out Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final showed that he is back in form with his first five-wicket haul in ODIs. In many ways, Amir is the key to the bowling along with Wahab Riaz, who has proven to be expensive against India in past encounters.
For Pakistan to make a contest out of this, their batting needs to fire. Mohammad Hafeez, Imam-ul-Haq and Sarfaraz Ahmed have made contributions but all eyes would be on Fakhar Zaman, whose century helped Pakistan win their last ICC trophy. In past encounters, Pakistan’s batting has always let them down and they will be hoping for a better show.
There is one slight problem heading into the clash in Manchester though. The weather has been inclement in Manchester for the last couple of days and showers are expected to play a part in this match. The billions of fans would be hoping that the rain gods stay away and the ICC will also be praying. If rain washes out this match, then it is certain that the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 will be a certified disaster.
With Shikhar Dhawan missing this match, KL Rahul will open the batting. India already has depth in the bowling. Considering his previous record against Pakistan and provided the pitch offers seam movement, Mohammed Shami might replace Bhuvneshwar Kumar. If India needs depth in their batting, they might go in with Dinesh Karthik or Vijay Shankar. For Pakistan, they might want to include Shadab Khan in place of Shaheen Afridi who was a tad expensive against Australia
India (Playing XI): KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal
Pakistan (Playing XI): Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed(w/c), Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir
Who will win?
On all departments, India is better equipped and it is no longer a case of India's batting versus Pakistan's bowling. Barring a freakish performance from either the Pakistan batsmen or the bowlers, India should make the scoreline 7-0 on Sunday.
Weather and pitch
This is the most dominant question of all. The weather in Southampton is not all that great. There are chances of rain and it could end up being another spoiler.
6-0. This is not only a decorated scoreline in tennis but for Indian cricket fans. India has won all six encounters against Pakistan starting from 1992 in Sydney, 1996 in Bangalore, 1999 in Manchester, 2003 in Centurion, 2011 in Mohali and 2015 in Adelaide.
Stadium and timings
The match will be played at Old Trafford, Manchester and the match will begin at 3:00 PM IST.