Until the eve of this tournament question marks hung over whether arguably the biggest game in international sport would take place, so it would be cruel for the Manchester weather to have the final word.
When India meet Pakistan, it demands and receives a truly global audience due to the political tension between the neighbours.
As India captain Virat Kohli put it: ‘It’s an opportunity to create excitement. It’s a marquee event all over the world.’
India captain Virat Kohli said the clash with Pakistan is a ‘marquee event all over the world’
Rain appears set in in the north-west this weekend, which is bad news for Sarfaraz Ahmed
For more than a billion people, Sunday’s fixture at Old Trafford encapsulates the conflict that has raged in Kashmir since the Partition of India in 1947.
As recently as February, the Indian board released a statement urging ‘the cricketing community to sever ties with countries from which terrorism emanates.’
The rivalry between England and Australia is an historic one that has retained its piquancy through on-field skirmishes. Pitch Kohli’s India with a Pakistan team fronted by Sarfaraz Ahmed, however, and it goes way beyond sporting hostilities and tradition.
The rarity of such clashes — limited-overs series between the two terminated in 2013, five years after Test matches ceased — only serves to increase the anticipation, meaning that the 26,000 tickets were snapped up within a matter of hours of general sale.
India and Pakistan have not played each other since the Champions Trophy in 2017
Some have reportedly changed hands on secondary sales websites for sums of up to £2,500 since.
The bad news is that rain appears set in across the north-west, which is much better news for Kohli than Sarfaraz.
Pakistan find themselves in an uncomfortable position in their bid to make the top four of this World Cup and secure a semi-final place, thanks to defeats by West Indies and Australia.
Their match against Sri Lanka was washed out and they can ill-afford another.
The portents for a Pakistan victory do not look positive despite the fact that they beat India in the Champions Trophy here in 2017.
In six previous meetings at the World Cup, Pakistan are winless, while the impressive display against Eoin Morgan’s team last week masks wretched recent form. That success stands in isolation alongside 12 defeats stretching back to January.
One positive for Pakistan is the resurgence of left-armer Mohammed Amir in the tournament
India, meanwhile, turned up fashionably late and have since acted as though everyone was awaiting their arrival to get the party started.
They remain unbeaten, following comfortable wins over South Africa and Australia plus a rain-off with New Zealand.
One positive for Pakistan is the resurgence of left-armer Mohammad Amir, who has 10 wickets in three outings to date, twice as many as he managed in the previous 14 ODIs in which he bowled.
With Shikhar Dhawan sidelined with a fractured thumb — India are intent on allowing him to recover rather than replace him — Amir will be confronted with a new opening pair of KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma.
Prising them apart early could be key to keeping their tournament hopes alive.
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We’re nowhere near our best, warns Finch
Aaron Finch warned Australia’s rivals the reigning champions are nowhere near their peak yet
Aaron Finch warned Australia’s rivals that the reigning champions are nowhere near their peak yet.
‘I don’t think we have gone anything near our best which is still a good thing,’ said the Australian captain ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Sri Lanka at the Oval.
‘We have six points on the board but are not playing anywhere near our best cricket, which is a real positive.’
Finch, plus the recently-returned pair of Steve Smith and David Warner, find themselves in the top eight run-scorers of the competition while new-ball pair Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins have nine wickets apiece.
A decent number have come from a willingness to turn to bouncers regularly, a policy unlikely to change against a Sri Lankan side that has so far been dismissed for scores of 136 and 201.
‘Some of our guys are really good players of the short ball, some of them find it hard. But if you think you can go for it, I will tell my players to go for it because we need runs as well,’ said Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne, whose team’s four-point haul includes two points from abandonments.
Aussie all-rounder Marcus Stoinis remains unavailable for Australia due to a side strain.
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Fired-up Faf: Lay World Cup ghosts to rest
Faf du Plessis has urged his South Africa team-mates not to be haunted by their past
Faf du Plessis urged his team-mates not to be haunted by their past displays as they look to turn around a woeful World Cup.
Starting with today’s fixture versus Afghanistan in Cardiff, South Africa cannot afford another defeat if they are to scrape into the semi-finals.
‘We have to make sure we put all our energy and focus into what’s coming up next. If we carry the ghosts of the last week with us, it’s going to be tough to get out of the hole,’ said Du Plessis, whose team have one point from four matches.
‘We can’t be looking back. If we are looking back, we are almost going to float through this tournament and then we might win one or two or three games and we won’t achieve what we want.
‘Everyone has written (us) off. Our backs are against the wall. Maybe that lets the guys play the way we want to play.’
South Africa will make a late call on the fitness of fast bowler Lungi Ngidi (hamstring) but Afghanistan’s star leg-spinner Rashid Khan is expected to be given the OK after concussion.
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