There could not be a better and more dramatic set up for Pakistan to make a comeback in the series. Pakistan have generally done well when they have been cornered (four defeats in their previous six games is, quite clearly, a corner), and they could use a strong comeback now.
While their batting remains their weaker side, the return to form of Salman Butt, the steady, consistent batting from Yousuf and the reassuring touch showed by Afridi and Malik could give the Indian camp some reason to worry. Malik and Yousuf add a significant lot to the Pakistan team batting average (3.14 and 10.61 respectively) and for the Indians to record another victory, they will need to have clear answers to the questions posed by these two batsmen.
The Indians, contrary to their reputation, have so far showed a more balanced team performance in both the departments. With the likes of Gangly, Gambhir, Dhoni and Yuvraj having shown some good touch, backed with the potential to produce match winning innings and given that each of them score at an average higher than India’s team batting average (Dhoni by 11.29 runs, Ganguly by 9.09 runs and Yuvraj by 3.86 runs), the Indian batting will clearly weigh in as their strength, and triggering a collapse could open the route to victory for Pakistan. However, that will be easier said than done, given the average Indian score of 258 (as compared to Pakistan’s 227).
An important factor, however, is that the Indian batting has been a bit more inconsistent in their previous few games, oscillating between scores of 140 and 291. Pakistan, on the other hand, haven't had a great run-feast, but have been relatively more consistent in their scoring.
Traditionally, it’s the Pakistani bowlers that have been the ones to fear, but in recent games they have fallen a touch short of the Indian bowlers’ consistency. Shoaib Akhtar remains an enigma. His bowling average is a good 12.51 runs less than the team’ bowling average (36) and a lot will depend on which side of the bed he gets up from. Afridi and Rehman have been effective as ever, and will test the Indians in the middle overs.
India go into the game holding a slight advantage, but they will need to be vary of the fact that it will only take one virtuoso, matching-winning performance from Afridi, Gul, Salman Butt and/or Akhtar to change that.