Sarfraz says no pressure ahead of Pak-India clash

The hosts start the tournament as favourites having enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in fifty over cricket after their disastrous exit from the 2015 World Cup when a loss to Bangladesh saw them bow out at the group stage. They will have to get the players to relax and ask them to play their natural game. India beat England by 8 wickets and beat New Zealand by 14 runs in the Pool matches, qualifying for the Semi-Finals.

"We're still ranked the No.1 team in the world going into the tournament, so there are quite a few reasons for us to be confident, but we're still humbled at the same time and know that we have to work hard and take it one step at a time to win this".

The series against South Africa may not have ended on a high but England captain Eoin Morgan insists his side will not let its confidence drop as it prepares to launch its ICC Champions Trophy campaign on Thursday. "I feel ready for the tournament now", he said after India's convincing 240-run win over Bangladesh.

Fourth in the One-Day International rankings, New Zealand's performance in 50-over cricket this year reflects that it has done well, but is not the finished product yet.

Victor of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017: England, who beat India by three runs in a cliff-hanger of a final.

Smith also hinted at pace being his primary weapon in Australia's opening match against New Zealand which comes as no surprise considering the quality of resources at his disposal.

The route could again require five wins like the 2013 Champions Trophy.

The collapse they suffered in the final ODI against South Africa is unlikely to disturb them too much but such a slip up in the compressed Champions Trophy programme could see them suffer another ICC tournament heartbreak.

Not that Mashrafe Mortaza's team should be underestimated in their first Champions Trophy appearance since 2006 even considering their thumping by India in their last warm-up match. Stokes has been experiencing pain in his left knee when bowling, and although he starred with a match-winning 101 in the series-sealing second ODI against South Africa, he was rested for the third match.

The group's dark horses come into the Champions Trophy on a high and free of the burden of expectation. Group A consisted of Australia, Pakistan, India and West Indies while Group B had New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka and South Africa.

India have not played any bilateral cricket with Pakistan since 2007, although in the winter of 2012-13, Pakistan made a short goodwill tour to India that included three One Day Internationals and two Twenty20 Internationals. Bangladesh's ODI performances mean they are now ranked the sixth best ODI team in the world and they have beaten two of their group opponents, England and New Zealand, in recent times. With a strike rate of 99.85 with the bat and a bowling average of 37.65, he can be the ideal man to swing games England's way when the going gets tough.

On the other hand, spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin have only played a handful of ODIs in the last two years and Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane have struggled to get big runs in the 50- and 20-over formats heading into the competition.

  • Julie Sanders