World Cup T20: Beware the cornered tigers of Pakistan - Chris Waters on cricket

MY heart says England, my head says India, and my hope for justice says Pakistan.

Rivals: India's Virat Kohli and England's Eoin Morgan with the Series trophy during the 1st T20 International at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad.

It should be one heck of a T20 World Cup, with several sides having claims on the crown.

To clarify immediately my hope for justice on behalf of Pakistan: the way that they were treated by the England and Wales Cricket Board recently was shameful, with the ECB cancelling a T20 tour on spurious grounds, following an earlier withdrawal by New Zealand that cited security concerns.

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If England cannot win the World Cup then let it – in the interests of rectitude and redress – be Pakistan, and there would certainly be no more apposite climax to the seventh edition of the competition than for Pakistan to beat England in the final in Dubai on November 14.

Beware the cornered tigers, to paraphrase Imran Khan, especially those which have been poked and prodded by an ECB stick. Pakistan do controversy and chaos better than anyone around, and they will need no extra motivation here.

They certainly have the fast bowling arsenal to go all the way, led by the brilliant Shaheen Shah Afridi, while opening batsmen Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam are in formidable form. Whether the support cast can provide the necessary glue to complement the glitz could be key to their chances.

India should win it – and are favourites to do so. They have all bases covered with powerful batting, versatile bowling, and the skills to adapt to the slow, used surfaces of the UAE.

They also have a captain in Virat Kohli who not only possesses the best T20 batting average of all (52.65) but who wants to sign off on a high as he prepares to hand over the T20 reins to Rohit Sharma at the end of the tournament.

India made light work of England in their opening warm-up in Dubai on Monday, and although little should be read into that, confidence in their chances did not look misplaced.

As for England, beaten finalists last time, they are desperate to become the first to hold the T20 and 50-over World Cups simultaneously.

There is not quite the same aura surrounding them as there was for that 50-over World Cup in 2019, not least because they do not have home advantage this time, while pace bowler Jofra Archer, who made such an impact in that tournament, is out through injury along with Ben Stokes and Sam Curran.

But their batting remains as explosive as any, led by the brilliant Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow, with Liam Livingstone providing further lustre.

Question marks nonetheless surround the form of captain Eoin Morgan (he averaged 11 in the recent IPL), along with England’s bowling at the death.

West Indies, the holders, cannot be discounted, not least with the big-hitting capabilities of captain Kieron Pollard and vice-captain Nicholas Pooran, while New Zealand, Australia and South Africa will have their supporters. It promises to be a fascinating few weeks.