If there is one word that can explain Pakistan Cricket Team – it’s unpredictability. You never know which Pakistan team will turn up. One day they will come across as world beaters and the very next day they will look like the most ordinary team on the park.
For billions of India fans across the globe who bleed blue, the Pakistan team that played the final of Champions Trophy on Sunday were the world beaters. Fakhar Zaman just four innings into his international career, struck a brilliant match-winning century. The opening stand of 128 between him and Azhar Ali set the base for Pakistan’s huge total of 338 runs. Indian bowlers, apart from Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, did not seem to have any control on the run rate.
It was not a chance less innings by any stretch of imagination, Fakhar nicked to Dhoni in the fourth over but Bumrah over-stepped. There were numerous chances of thick edges and mistimed shots off bouncers that would almost become reliably fruitful.
India’s main strength, their spinners, were taken to cleaners in the middle overs and that was where Pakistan stamped their authority on the game. Fakhar hit 15 off one Jadeja’s over and his off-balance sweep off Ashwin for four to reach his hundred was a fitting way to go to triple figures.
After Fakhar got out Hafeez and Babar Azam joined hands and kept the momentum going. India got two wickets in Azam and Shoaib Malik and looked to gain some control over the proceedings. Imad Wasim and Hafeez added 71 off the final 45 balls of the Pakistan innings and took the total to 338.
To chase a target of 339 India needed their top 3 to come good. India’s top three Rohit, Dhawan and Kohli were in good form in the tournament and India pinned their hopes on them but Mohammad Amir who was returning from a back injury had other ideas. He pinned Rohit Sharma plumb in front for nought to draw first blood.
Amir was on a roll but he had the World’s number one batsman coming in next in the form of India’s Captain Virat Kohli. Amir had him knicking to the first slip where Azhar Ali dropped a sitter but Amir had Kohli caught at point the very next ball to leave India reeling at 6 for 2. Dhawan played a couple of good shots but he was Amir’s third victim for 21. Yuvi, Dhoni and Jadhav fell in quick succession and at one time India were reduced to 72 for 6 and were in danger of getting bowled out for less than 100.
Hardik Pandya played a brilliant lone hand of 76 off just 43 balls with 6 sixes to revive a small hope of an Indian comeback. But a misunderstanding between him and Jadeja led to his run out and India folded like nine pins after his wicket to be all out for 158. It was an absolute thrashing in cricketing terms to get defeated by a margin of 180 runs.
There were two heroes for Pakistan, one in batting and one in bowling. Fakhar Zaman played an innings to be remembered for a lifetime and Mohammad Amir bowled a dream spell in the same country where he was suspended for five years for spot fixing. Nobody gave a chance to the Pakistan team after they lost the first match to India. It was more the manner in which they lost the game that left their fans heartbroken. But Pakistan made a strong comeback against South Africa and defeated the number one ranked team and than they knocked the Sri Lankan team out of the tournament.
Next up for them were the tournament favorites and the host nation England and nobody gave them a chance but they gave one of their best performance and set up a clash with the Indians. They saved their best for the last and the Indian team could not come back after the initial assault by Fakhar Zaman.
One thing that is not to be missed is the captaincy by Sarfraz Ahmed. He rallied the team after that initial loss to India and is to be given full credit for his team lifting the trophy. This is a memorable performance from a team that does not play any cricket in their home country, but to come out and play in a tournament of Champions Trophy stature and win it in a manner that Pakistan has done speaks volumes about the resolve and the skills this team has. Well played Pakistan. It’s a day to remember and you deserve all the praise that is coming your way. To Indian team, one bad day in the office does not make you bad. It’s a game of cricket, well done on reaching the finals and your fans still love you.