Cricket Expert & Columnist
Pakistan face huge challenge to topple heavy favourites India in World Cup
Watch India take on Pakistan live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10am on Sunday
Last Updated: 14/06/19 7:22pm
Pakistan will have to play brilliant cricket to topple heavy favourites India in Sunday's titanic World Cup clash, says Andrew Strauss.
The teams go head-to-head on Sunday at Old Trafford in a match that is expected to capture a vast global audience.
Although Pakistan overcame their old foe to win the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final at The Oval by a colossal 180 runs, it is Virat Kohli's undefeated side who sit higher in the World Cup table with two wins from three matches, including a 36-run win over Australia.
Pakistan did pull off the surprise of the tournament so far by beating hosts England, but Strauss told Sky Sports that Sarfaraz Ahmed's side are clear underdogs.
"Pakistan have never beaten India in a World Cup so it's a huge challenge for them," he said.
"It's going to be an incredible event; the eyes of the world are going to be on both of these teams and there will be a lot of pressure on both of them to perform, just because of that expectation.
"India are heavy favourites; for me, Pakistan need India to have a bad day and play brilliantly to win.
"We know Pakistan are capable of playing brilliantly - we saw that against England, so it's definitely not a forgone conclusion in any shape or form, but Pakistan have got to be a lot better and more consistent than they have been thus far in this tournament.
After being rolled for 105 by the West Indies in their opening match, Pakistan's batting line-up has struggled to find consistency and solidity with no batsman yet to score a hundred.
Strauss says there were a few encouraging signs in the 41-run defeat to Australia, which featured a fifty for Imam-ul-Haq and a stylish 30 from Babar Azam.
"Babar showed beautiful balance against Australia, standing there hitting the ball on the up," said Strauss.
"He's got a nice rhythm to the way he bats as well; he doesn't look like he gets easily flustered. He looks like a guy who is there for a long time.
"He is fast forging himself a reputation for himself as the real mainstay of the Pakistan batting.
"You just need to bear in mind Pakistan's form leading into this tournament; they haven't been in good form and that pressure on them in this India game is going to be double because of that.
"They haven't got a lot of confidence to back that up and they know that this is a must-win game if you look at the table; I think that's a very big task for them."
Seamer Mohammad Amir has captured 10 wickets at just 12.30 apiece - including figures of 5-30 against Australia - and Strauss says the left-armer might just hold the key to putting India under pressure.
"It baffles the mind as to why he wasn't picked in the provisional squad. I thought he was excellent against England.
"He bowls a good length and while he's not genuinely quick, he's quick enough and in English conditions - especially if there's a little bit in the pitch - he's going to get something out of it.
"He and Wahab Riaz are a good combination and I think it's all about early wickets for Pakistan; they need to get into that India middle-order early, because if you get into that lower middle-order there is some vulnerability there."
For now, undefeated India continue to live up their billing as title contenders and Strauss says that their run-scoring ability is as much based on graft as it is innovation.
"With a lot of India's batsmen everything they do is underpinned by a very solid technique," he reflected.
"Rohit Sharma is a class act. You look at his record, which is outstanding. He's part of a formidable batting line-up.
"The combination of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar at the top of the order is impressive.
"Bumrah has really taken the world by storm; his action is very hard to pick up. It's hard to judge the change of pace and no-one has come up with an answer to it yet."
Watch India take on Pakistan live on Sky Sports Cricket World Cup and Main Event from 10am on Sunday.