|Event:||ICC Champions Trophy 2009/10|
DateLine: 25th September 2009
Fit-again skipper Younus Khan has returned to bolster Pakistan in a high-pressure match against India in the Champions Trophy here on Saturday.
The reliable middle-order batsman missed his team's opening game against the West Indies in Johannesburg on Wednesday due to a finger injury, making way for all-rounder Shahid Afridi to lead the side.
Younus, who suffered a hairline fracture during a warm-up game, has regained fitness at the right time after Pakistan's batsmen struggled against an under-strength West Indies on a lively track.
Little-known paceman Gavin Tonge rattled Pakistan with a four-wicket burst before teenager Umar Akmal (41 not out) and Afridi (17 not out) helped their team win by five wickets.
Pakistan will be looking forward to a vastly-improved performance from their batsmen against India, who have excellent fast bowlers in Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma and Rudra Pratap Singh.
A victory will strengthen Pakistan's chances of making it to the semi-finals from the four-team group, which also features defending champions Australia. The top two sides advance to the last-four.
Pakistan will also be keen to improve their record against India in International Cricket Council-conducted tournaments, having lost four matches in the World Cup and two in the Twenty20 World Championships.
Their lone win over India came in the 2004 Champions Trophy in England.
Pakistan had reasons to be pleased with their bowling, with teenage paceman Mohammad Aamer and Umar Gul grabbing three wickets apiece against the West Indies. Spinner Saeed Ajaml also impressed, taking two wickets.
India's depth in batting will be tested, especially in the absence of Yuvraj Singh, a hard-hitting batsman who was ruled out of the tournament due to a finger injury suffered during a practice session on Wednesday.
He has been replaced with Virat Kohli.
The Indian batting still looks solid as Sachin Tendulkar, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir are all capable of playing match-winning roles.
The focus will be on middle-order batsman Rahul Dravid, who has just returned to the one-side after nearly two years. He is known for building an innings under pressure, having already scored more than 10,000 one-day runs.
India will be determined to maintain their consistency, having already clinched five successive bilateral one-day series and a recent tri-series in Sri Lanka.
India coach Gary Kirsten had said before the tournament that one of the goals was to become the best team in the world.
"We are headed that way and are very excited. We know we have to perform well as we continue the quest to be the best. We take pride in our consistency and we'd like to continue that," he had said.
Experienced Pakistani batsman Shoaib Malik said it would be "the match" of the tournament.
"It is the most-eagerly awaited match, both for the crowd and for the players because if you perform well and help your team win you become an instant hero," said Shoaib.
India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Rudra Pratap Singh, Amit Mishra, Dinesh Karthik, Abhishek Nayar.
Pakistan (from): Younus Khan (capt), Imran Nazir, Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Rana Naved-ul Hasan, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Yousuf, Kamran Akmal, Umar Gul, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif, Rao Iftikhar, Saeed Ajmal.
Umpires: Steve Davis (AUS) and Simon Taufel (AUS)
TV umpire: Ian Gould (ENG)
Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (SRI)
(Article: Copyright © 2009 AFP)