After the June 4 humiliation, Pakistan may not be the favourites while going into the 2017 Champions Trophy final against India but head coach Mickey Arthur believes he may have found the defending champions’ Achilles Heel ahead of the showdown at The Oval.
According to Arthur, India’s top-order has done marvellously well for the team which has meant that the middle-order hasn’t really been tested throughout the competition. If Pakistan want to create a chance for themselves, then they’ll have to focus their attack on India’s top three — Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli.
“We have to [attack], we’ve got no other option,” Arthur told cricket.com.au. “We’ve got to try and make that new ball really work for us. We’ve got to try and get into them. That middle-order hasn’t had massive hits, they haven’t batted much under pressure of late. So we’ve got to try and put them under extreme pressure particularly by knocking their top-order over. If we can do that, we’ve got a real chance of getting to their underbelly.”
While a majority of India’s runs have been scored by the top three, Pakistan rely on their perilous bowling attack and their most important strength, according to Arthur, has been taking wickets in the middle overs.
“Tactically we’d always spoken about our guys wanting to express themselves with the ball and wanting to attack,” said Arthur.
The former South Africa and Australia coach believes the key to Pakistan’s success lies in their constant search for wickets.
“[The second Power Play] historically has been a bit of a dead period where you’re just trying to squeeze and contain the opposition,” he said. “But what happens is you just allow the opposition to play, they keep so many wickets in hand that scores are getting too big at the back end. So we decided that we really wanted to attack those overs. That was key for us and we gave our bowlers the freedom to do that. We’ve got the ball to reverse swing, which is good for us because that’s a massive weapon.”
Everyone had written off Pakistan after they opened their campaign with a loss but captain Sarfraz Ahmed, in the pre and post-match press conferences, kept insisting that they will not give up on playing positive and attacking cricket.
That mantra worked for him when he downed world number one South Africa, and then Sri Lanka in their Group B.
Hosts and tournament favourites England were sent packing in the semi-finals as Pakistan cantered to an astounding eight-wicket win.
“Our execution has been great and we’ve attacked,” said Arthur. “The captain has kept slips and put catchers in attacking positions and it’s worked for us. He’s very positive. He’s an aggressive captain and he wants to take wickets. That’s how we want to play and I think that’s how you have to play one-day cricket now. He encapsulates all that.”