Last week, Shan Masood spoke about spending time with his future Yorkshire teammates Harry Brook, Dawid Malan and Adil Rashid during England’s seven-match T20 series in Pakistan in September. “I think that’s the beauty of the game,” he says. It connects people, it connects everyone. This stage is set for an unusually friendly final.”
There is a lot of camaraderie and a lot of respect among the coaching staff,” says England coach Matthew Mott. We know each other very well. It’s not going to take anything away on the field – both teams are going to be determined to do their best and win that World Cup final – but of course both teams blend in very well.
In all this, somehow Shaheen Afridi becomes both Pakistan’s most famous threat and their secret weapon. The 22-year-old suffered a knee ligament injury in July that ruled him out of England’s 4-3 series win in their homeland in September – he spent most of that time receiving specialist care in London – and he bowled only two overs when the teams met for a warm-up game in Brisbane on the eve of the tournament.
One thing that can lower England’s morale ahead of the final is the actual humidity. If the weather forecast is absolutely reliable it will be put in Melbourne on Sunday, and on Friday England were poring over the short print of the tournament’s rules.
If the England-Pakistan match cannot be ended on Sunday – and both innings in the knockout stages will have to last at least 10 overs to get results – play will resume at 5 am GMT on Monday, with rain potentially the start of a maximum of four hours of extra play potentially still an issue.
If the match is not decided by then, the teams will be declared joint winners. “It’s in the lap of the gods,” said former Australia batsman Matthew Hayden, who mentored the Pakistan team during the World Cup. “Who knows about the weather here in Melbourne?” It’s the start of the season so it’s variable and we have to live with it.
There is no doubt that the India vs Pakistan final was a dream for the tournament organisers; There’s also no doubt about what the nightmare will be.