When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning or in Melbourne rain?
England (Source: AP)
There is considerable doubt that Sunday’s hurly burly will take place at all, let alone whether it will be lost and won. Thunder, lightning and rain do appear to be the likely victors.
But should the battle between England and Pakistan be done ere the set of sun on Sunday (or Monday), which three meeting again from these two familiar foes will most dictate who will be king hereafter?
Familiar perhaps, but no contempt from either camp. England edged the September seven game series in Pakistan, but for much of it there was barely a cigarette paper to slide between the sides. Two of our three players were conspicuous by their absence in that series though. The other was a prodigal returnee.
For the World T20 final, Pakistan will have Shaheen Shah Afridi fit and firing, ready to unleash against the fully loaded double barrels of England’s opening pair Jos Buttler and Alex Hales, joint destroyers of India at Adelaide. Throughout a highly entertaining and see sawing series in Pakistan, Afridi was held back, convalescing from knee surgery. His hour yet to come and Sunday could well provide it. England captain Jos Buttler, sat out that series too, wrapped carefully away to unleash maximum destruction when most needed. As for Hales, he played six of the seven games, his resurrection thanks to a trio of interconnected events. First, Eoin Morgan’s retirement, then Jason Roy’s calamitous loss of form and finally, the most bizarre event of all, Johnny Bairstow’s golfing mischance. Hales has been catapulted from outcast to top gun via Karachi, Lahore, Adelaide and now, just maybe, Melbourne.
Jos Buttler and Alex Hales (Source: AP)
At the beginning of the seven-game series in Pakistan, many were questioning whether a bi - lateral shoot out of such length could possibly sustain the interest of even the most devoted cricket fans. By the end, however, we were left wanting more. And more, weather permitting, we will get, the encore being on biggest stage of all.
Whatever the entertaining quirks of fate that have flung these two well matched opponents together, not least the heroics of Colin Ackerman and Brandon Glover as the Netherlands overturned a South Africa side that had looked nailed on semi - finalists at Pakistan’s expense, Sunday will be defining points in the careers for our trio.
At 22, Afridi has time a plenty on his side. Against New Zealand he exploded dramatically in the first over claiming the wicket of Finn Allen with a lightning fast in - swinger. Ten wickets so far at a frugal average of fourteen and economy rate a shade of six, suggest he is primed and ready.
Shaheen Afridi (Source: AP)
Jos Buttler and Alex Hales will have been looking at that semi-final with precision tuned interest. Likewise, you can bet that Shaheen will have watched with a clinical assassin’s eye as Buttler and Hales unleashed devastating fury on India’s swing bowlers.
Jos Buttler seems increasingly assured as England captain and along with that assuredness has returned his top order fire power. Hales is a man who must have felt his chance may never come again and now it has will be desperate to grab it and make a point to a few people in the process. Eoin Morgan is perhaps at the top of that list.
Melbourne though is not Adelaide. The short square boundaries that Hales so enjoyed plundering in the Big Bash as well as this World Cup semi-final are longer and that bit harder to clear at the MCG. The confidence of England’s top two will be sky high though, as will Afridi’s. At 32 and 33, however, Hales and Buttler, whilst by no means at the end of their careers, are looking at shorter futures than their youthful opponent. That may just prove the extra spark of motivation to tip the Afridi match up their way and with it the final for England. Thunder, lightning and rain permitting of course.