India v Pakistan has long been seen as the mother of all cricket contests. Both teams have engaged in some epic duels - who can forget Javed Miandad's last-ball six? Or Sreesanth's catch at fine leg? - but when it comes to the ICC Champions Trophy, its Pakistan who have the upper hand. In two head-to-heads in the tournament termed as the mini World Cup, they have beaten India both times.
At Edgbaston in 2004, India to lost to their arch-rivals Pakistan in a game that saw the team bundled out for 200. Rahul Dravid, who top-scored with 67, had quite a few confrontations with Shoaib Akhtar. Defending their total, India started off well as Irfan Pathan removed the first three Pakistan batsmen with just 27 on the board, thus continuing his glorious form against India's neighbours. Yousuf Youhana's unbeaten 81 along with Inzamam-ul-Haq's 49 stabilized the innings and Pakistan reached won in the last over to bring down the curtains on India's campaign.
At Centurion in 2009, India's first game against Pakistan was a bitter disappointment. The bowlers were hammered, and Harbhajan Singh and Yusuf Pathan went for 127 runs in 20 overs. Shoaib Malik scored 128 off 126 deliveries and was supported immensely by Mohammad Yousuf (89). India started off the chase nicely with Gautam Gambhir going strong at the top, but the rest of the batting crumbled due to some discipline bowling from Pakistan. Dravid (76) and Suresh Raina (46) tried but India eventually fell short by 54 runs.
On current form, India look the superior side. They have beaten South Africa and West Indies to become the first team to reach the semi-finals, while defeats to the same two teams have eliminated Pakistan.
At Cardiff, India's openers Shikhar Dhawan (114) and Rohit Sharma (65) laid a century platform and down the order Ravindra Jadeja's unbeaten 47 off 29 balls helped get the total to 331 for 7. In response, South Africa fell 26 runs short. India's quicks came in for some tap but Jadeja (2 for 31) and R Ashwin (0 for 47) helped put the brakes on the chase.
At The Oval, Dhawan (102*), Rohit (52) and Dinesh Karthik (51*) hastened an eight-wicket win after Jadeja's maiden five-wicket haul restricted West Indies to 233 for 9. The huge win secured India's place in the semi-finals.
Contrast that to Pakistan's performance. Against West Indies at The Oval, they were bowled out for 170. Only two batsmen reached double-figures - the opener Nasir Jamshed (50 off 93 balls) and skipper Misbah-ul-Haq (96* off 127). The rest of the scores read: 2, 4, 0, 0, 2, 6, 2, 0 and 2. Few teams will win matches after batting performances like that. As talented as Pakistan's bowling attack is, it was not enough to secure victory even though eight West Indian wickets were taken.
Next, Pakistan were thrashed by 67 runs at Edgbaston. Barring Wahab Riaz, each of the bowlers took a wicket as South Africa were kept to 234 for 9 but again the batting came a cropper. Once again, only Jamshed (42) and Misbah (55) were left to try and revive a sorry scorecard but even 235 proved impossible. The chase started poorly at 18 for 2 (an improvement from 15 for 3 against West Indies) and a steady flow of wickets saw South Africa easily overcome Pakistan.
Of course, everyone knows that past records matter little on the day. Pakistan and India have met each other four times in the last two years, splitting the share of results. Most recently, Pakistan won an ODI series in India 2-1. For all practical purposes Saturday's fixture at Edgbaston is a dead-rubber, but try telling that to the passionate fans that will throng the ground.
Have your say: Will India's batsmen trump Pakistan's bowling on Saturday?
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