It’s difficult to ignore the glaring similarities between Pakistan’s 1992 Cricket World Cup campaign and this year’s T20 tournament, both held in Australia.
On both occasions, Pakistan started with two defeats, including a loss to rivals India, before scraping into the knock-outs by one point.
After defeating New Zealand in the semi-final, just as they did 30 years ago, the Pakistanis will face England in the must-win finale, once again at the MCG.
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Pakistan ultimately won the 1992 final, Imran Khan’s last ODI, by 22 runs in front of 87,182 spectators. Superstitious cricket fans will back Babar Azam’s men to replicate the triumph in the Victorian capital this Sunday evening.
But an immensely talented English side stands in their way, a team that utterly embarrassed cricket powerhouse India in the semi-finals at Adelaide Oval earlier this week.
Coming off the resounding 10-wicket victory, England enters the T20 World Cup final as the undisputed favourites.
The Poms are vying to become the first nation to simultaneously possess the men’s ODI and T20 World Cup trophies, while coach Matthew Mott is hunting for a third World Cup triumph in as many years.
“I‘ve certainly had a few dreams about it,” England captain Jos Buttler confessed to reporters at the MCG on Saturday afternoon.
“It really links back to what you were like as a kid, the kind of things you would be doing in the garden with your brother and sister, pretending to lift a trophy.
“Now to be able to have the opportunity to have a chance to live that kind of thing out is incredibly special.”
England and Pakistan, both former T20 World Cup champions in 2010 and 2009 respectively, are well-acquainted, having played a seven-match bilateral series in the sub-continent weeks before the tournament.
Pakistani players regularly appear in the T20 Blast, while several English cricketers have featured in the Pakistan Super League since in inauguration.
The two nations also played a warm-up match at the Gabba in October, with England emerging comfortable victors.
Buttler and his teammates will be wary of Pakistan’s menacing pace attack, headlined by left-arm speedster Shaheen Shah Afridi and Melbourne Stars cult hero Haris Rauf.
Since the start of the Super 12 stage, Pakistan’s bowlers have taken more wickets than any other team while maintaining the lowest economy rate in the competition.
“Pakistan are a fantastic team,” Buttler said.
“They have a very long history of producing excellent fast bowlers, and the team that we‘re up against is no different.
“I‘m sure by the end of their careers, some of the guys who we’ll play against will go down as some of the best bowlers Pakistan have produced. That’s a huge part of why they got to a World Cup final.
“We expect a really tough challenge. They‘re a team we’ve seen lots of in the recent past, and we’ve had some brilliant matches against them, played in a fantastic spirit, and I’m sure tomorrow will be no different.”
Economy rate in the 2022 Men’s T20 World Cup
6.50 – Pakistan
7.10 – New Zealand
7.16 – Netherlands
7.33 – England
7.35 – South Africa
7.50 – Sri Lanka
7.51 – Afghanistan
7.61 – India
7.66 – Zimbabwe
7.90 – Bangladesh
8.23 – Australia
8.46 – Ireland
* Since start of Super 12s
Buttler and opening partner Alex Hales skilfully exploited Adelaide Oval’s short square boundaries during their unbeaten 170-run opening partnership on Thursday, sweeping India’s spinners over square leg and smacking their pace bowlers through the point region whenever width was on offer.
However, the MCG’s famously large outfield could force the English duo to rethink their strategy during the Powerplay, potentially making the right-handers attack down the ground instead.
But Pakistan’s quicks won’t make it easy for them – Rauf and young gun Naseem Shah will pepper England’s top order with bouncers once the Kookaburra stops swinging.
“The boundary sizes are your friend dead straight, whereas square either side of the field is, of course, quite big,” former Australian batter and Melbourne Stars coach David Hussey told ESPNcricinfo last month.
“Bowlers use a lot of change-ups and a lot of slower balls into the pitch, so the teams are hitting to the big square boundaries to eliminate the boundary options. However, when you‘re playing as a batter, you’ve just got to pretty much hit the gaps and run very, very hard. And when you get that full ball, take it on and hit the ball dead straight and use the shorter boundaries to your advantage.”
England will heavily on Buttler and Hales, with the opening pair scoring 61.3 per cent of the team’s runs during the tournament.
What time does the T20 World Cup final start?
The first delivery is scheduled to take place at 7pm local time.
Melbourne – 7pm
Sydney – 7pm
Brisbane – 6pm
Adelaide – 6.30pm
Perth – 4pm
Hobart – 7pm
How to watch the T20 World Cup
Fox Cricket (Channel 501) on Foxtel and streaming platform Kayo will broadcast the T20 World Cup final without ad breaks.
Channel 9 will also show the tournament finale.
The ABC and SEN will also provide radio coverage.
Are tickets still on sale?
Yes, you can purchase them on the official website here.
How’s the weather looking?
Sadly, pretty grim.
The Bureau of Meteorology is currently predicting a very high (near 100 per cent) chance of showers in Melbourne on Sunday, with 8mm to 20mm of rain expected to fall on the Victorian capital.
Unlike the group stage fixtures, the T20 World Cup final is allocated a reserve day, with the backup slot scheduled for 3pm on Monday afternoon.
But much to everyone’s frustration, the Monday forecast isn’t particularly promising either, with the Bureau predicting a 95 per cent chance of showers (5mm to 10 mm).
“Every effort will be made to complete the match on the scheduled day,” the T20 World Cup playing conditions state.
“Only if the minimum number of overs necessary to constitute a match cannot be bowled on the scheduled day will the match be completed on the reserve day.”
If the final is washed out, the trophy will be shared between the two finalists.
While group stage matches only required five overs in the second innings to constitute a result, at least 10 overs will need to be bowled in the run chase during the final.
The champions will receive US$1.6 million (AU$2.5 million) in prize money, while the runners-up return home with half of that sum.