Pakistan started the tournament with the lowest team rank, but by the end, this unpredictable team took home the trophy as champions winning against their arch-rival India in the ICC Champions Trophy final on June 18.
As the second biggest tournament of ICC’s curtain was raised, Australia, England, and South Africa were the teams expected to reach the final with fan favourite India to be considered too (for their formidable batting line-up and consistent performance).
Only a few might have named Pakistan out of affection, even former players from the country didn’t think the new team had what it took to become a champion.
Pakistan in their first group stage game against the title defenders were almost toyed with by India in a 124-run defeat. Blown away were the hopes of fans, and at stake was their survival in the tournament.
But the plot soon changed, as the results of Group B matches proved to be unexpected with India’s loss to Sri Lanka, not to mention Pakistan upsetting South Africa. No one could exactly predict or guess which team would qualify for the semi-finals from the group.
Dramatically, Pakistan secured their place with a nail-biting finish against Sri Lanka.
On the other hand, the host team England remained unbeaten in their group and chased down a target of 306 set by Bangladesh in the first match. They defeated New Zealand. Initially, they struggled with the bat against Australia, but proved their strength of the middle order by winning the rain-affected match.
Whereas their batting seemed unstoppable, and Adil Rashid and Woods being amongst the top wicket-takers, none could even imagine what was waiting for them as the Group A champions marched forward to face Pakistan in the semi-final.
To everyone’s surprise, Pakistan crushed the home side.
Batting has been Pakistan’s weakness for a long time now. But in the final, they batted exceptionally well, attaining the highest total scored in a final. The so-called best batting side was thwarted by possibly the best bowling side, and Pakistan for the first time clinched the champion’s title after reaching the semi-finals thrice in a total of eight appearances.
Amir shows his strengths
Hafeez once said: “I can’t share the dressing room with someone who hurts my country’s integrity.”
Even players started to boycott training sessions because of Amir’s inclusion in the Pakistan team. With a taunting history that tarnished his career, Mohammad Amir kept on regularly taking wickets making himself a key bowler in the team.
In the final, everyone knew that 338 runs were within the reach of India. The captain of the opposition had a good record of chasing big totals and winning matches for his side. The opening pair, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, were in good form.
Dhawan had scored most runs in the tournament. Coming into the attack, Amir dismantled the trio. His three wickets at the very early stage of the match were instrumental to the victory of Pakistan.
He missed the semi-final, but made sure that fans don’t forget his contribution to the win. The bowler also scored with the bat in a match-winning partnership against Sri Lanka. His exemplary performance shows how a man can write his own bright future, fading away their dark past.
Pakistan’s team effort helped them write history at Kennington Oval on Sunday. Pakistan proved once again how beautiful the game of cricket is
Other stars of the match
Hafeez was questioned for his performance; the once top all-rounder of Pakistan cricket. He was not quite lethal with his bowling as he once used to be. But he responded in the final with his 57 off 37 balls that led to the massive total.
Overall, the pitch seemed to have nothing to offer to the bowlers, and became batting-friendly. Still, very few bowlers were able to produce magic with the ball, and Hassan Ali was the best among them. Hassan Ali earned 13 wickets to his name and was rightfully named the Player of the Tournament.
The fabulous find
Had Pakistan not scored such a big total, the scenario could have been much different. Thanks to the young Fakhar Zaman for scoring a century in his first match against India.
This wonder boy played his first ICC tournament and went on to score more and more runs beautifully in the four games that he played. His ordeal was to face the big game, but he overwhelmed his team with a match winning performance of 114 runs off only 106 balls.
Fakhar was named the Player of the Final.
O captain, my captain
Confidence always results in success, boosting up your team’s morale is important for any captain, and the man who did that job behind the wickets was none other than Sarfraz Ahmed. With the timely change of bowling in every match, Sarfraz proved how well he can lead his team despite it being his very first time as a captain on such a big stage.
PCB put their trust in him by conferring the captaincy, which he repaid by taking the helm proficiently.
After losing by a huge margin to India in the very first game, it was hard to move on to win all of the next matches with a possibly spirit-broken team. But this man had faith in his team, the faith was sheer power against their opponents.
The genius behind the scenes
Last but not the least, how the bowling coach Azhar Mahmood influenced the bowlers was visible in their performance. Former Pakistani player Azhar had played a good number of matches in England, and his experience on the grounds of London and Wales added an advantage to the bowling department.
Seamers didn’t disappoint their sensei with noticeable reverse swings.
Junaid, Azhar Ali, and others contributed to the team and played well throughout the tournament. Pakistan won the title undoubtedly as the most deserving side. They also avenged their only loss in the tournament with a 180-run win.
Previously, Pakistan had lost all three knockout matches that were against India in an ICC event. Pakistan’s team effort helped them write history at Kennington Oval on Sunday. Pakistan proved once again how beautiful the game of cricket is, and how any team can make anything possible.
Raihan Rahman Rafid is a freelance contributor.