I’m coming to this late after being out all day watching my county team Essex play for the last 3 days, they beat Warwickshire by an innings and 164 runs!
I have to confess my allegiance as far as the Champions trophy final is concerned, I am English and England are my team, but Pakistan come a very close second behind them. I watched every Pakistan test in England last summer and they won me over both with their cricket and their attitude.
Pakistan scraped into the tournament only just making 8th place in the world rankings, had the time frame been different they may not have been in England at all. But, they were and more than that they found themselves in the final, facing India, the team that had beaten them by 124 runs during their group meeting at Edgbaston. That game was men against boys, totally disheartening for the men in green.
India and Pakistan were in a group with South Africa and Sri Lanka, Pakistan beat South Africa in a rain affected match and Sri Lanka shocked India to beat them in some style. That left all to play for in the final matches between Pakistan and Sri Lanka and India and South Africa.
Pakistan played Sri Lanka in Cardiff and we got sight of the potential of the bowling attack of Pakistan as they bowled their opposition out for 236, however Pakistan did try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but a couple of dropped catches and a stand between captain Sarfaraz and Amir saw them into the Semi-Final against England.
India played South Africa at the Oval, I was at this one, and was surprised to see South Africa bowled out for 191, I have to borrow a saying from Dan Norcross to describe this innings, it was to say the least, a coalition of chaos! And included what I’d describe as a comedy run out with David Miller ending up at the same wicket as du Plessis not long after AB de Villiers had been run out ‘properly’. Tahir was the last wicket to fall, and no shock, that was a run out too! India breezed through their innings, making the total in 38 overs and with 8 wickets intact.
Pakistan stayed in Cardiff for their semi-final and faced England, realistically one of the favourites. However that tag meant nothing to this Pakistan team, they demolished Englands’ much feted batting line up. England were literally blown away, they made 211 with Hassan Ali taking 3 for 35, the passion displayed by this young bowler was a sight to behold! Yes England are my team but I couldn’t help but admire the display by this inexperienced bowling line up!
With 212 to chase step up Fakhar Zaman, a man who is from the same area as the legend that is Younis Khan, he plied his trade in domestic cricket for 5 years, with little attention, it was in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy that he came to the notice of the Lahore Qalanders in the PSL. His form in the tournament earned him a call up for the T20 side touring the West Indies, he didn’t shine there so the world was largely unaware of this man. He missed the match against India but made 31 against South Africa, 50 against Sri Lanka and 57 against England. Fakhar had arrived on the international scene!
Azhar Ali stands at 7 in the world in the Test Cricket rankings, but has struggled to reach the run rates needed in white ball cricket, however in this tournament he found his oomph. He made 76 against England as Pakistan cantered to the Final with 12,5 overs and 8 wickets remaining.
India faced Bangladesh in their semi-final, the Tigers made 264 for 7 in their 50 overs. Opener Tamim Iqbal who’d scored a highly entertaining century against England in the opening game, made 70 to see his star rise further.
With the batting line up available to India 265 really wasn’t a problem, Shikar Dhawan had been the man in the group games and he did make 46, but it was his fellow opener Rohit Sharma who made 123 along with captain Virat Kohli with 96 who made the total with 9.5 overs remaining.
The dream final as far as worldwide TV audiences was on! India met Pakistan on the 18th June at the Oval in London. I’d been very lucky to get a ticket in the original ballot and travelled up to the final with the hope of a Pakistan win more than an expectation if I’m totally honest.
This was my 7th Champions Trophy match so I knew the crowd would be a passionate and lively one, this particular match up seems to transcend more than sport with the history between the 2 countries. I was sat with India fans living in England and a lovely Australian couple.
I arrived in time for the toss and therefore in time to see Virat Kohli win it and put Pakistan in to bat. I’ve commented before that several of the India players have the look of a film star, Virat Kohli is an international superstar, he couldn’t be more different to Sarfaraz (an extra A from last summer) Ahmed the Pakistan captain. I’d found Sarfaraz highly likeable in 2016 and was really hoping for the best for him and his team. Losing the toss didn’t feel like the best of starts, as the cries of triumph from the India fans also agreed.
Sarfaraz’s take on the toss was
‘We wanted to bowl first, but the toss is out of our control. Hopefully we can post more than 300. I said when we arrived we have nothing to lose and we have nothing to lose today too. Mohammad Amir is fit and he is back’
Azhar and star in the making Fakhar opened the batting, and it appeared that disaster had struck when Fakhar was caught behind from the bowling of Jasprit Bumrah, the source of the cheers turned from blue to green when he was called back, Bumrah had bowled a no ball! Fakhar was given a life!
The openers put on 128 before Azhar was run out as Bumrah and Dhoni combined to see him on his way with 59 to his name. I’d seen Fakhar bat at Edgbaston against South Africa, but this innings was something else! He was fearless in the face of this India bowling attack and made a mighty 114 from 106 balls, before he was caught by Jadeja from the bowling of Pandya. Pakistan were 200 for 2! The India fans sitting near me had admired his innings but were in something of a state of shock and were desperate for their team to take more wickets.
Babar Azam had come in at 3 and was joined by Shoaib Malik, it wasn’t to be Shoaib’s day with the bat and he was next to depart with 12 caught by Jadhav from the bowling of Kumar, Pakistan were 247 for 3 in the 40th over. Babar left the fray with only a further 20 runs on the board as he was caught by Yuvraj from the bowling of Jadhav.
That left experienced man Mohammad Hafeez and Imad Wasim, a Welsh born Pakistan cricketer at the crease, that luck held again for Pakistan when in the 49th over Bumrah bowled a perfect yorker to Hafeez, which hit the stumps but didn’t disturb the bails! It was plain to see from where I was sitting and was truly amazing! Hafeez finished with 57, Imad with 25 and Pakistan with a very decent total of 338 for 4.
The India bowlers had struggled and again so had their captain, I felt that again he took himself away from the action, heading out to the boundary, he seemed bereft of ideas of how to cope with this Pakistan batting attack. HIs go to test bowler Ravichandran Ashwin similar had no answers and was bowled for too long in my opinion.
I hadn’t wanted to miss a ball of this match so needed to move during the break, I found that quite scary as there was a virtual crush moving around the Oval with no sign of any control. I did without lunch as I walked the whole way round to avoid the crowd.
338 in the terms of modern 50 over cricket isn’t a huge score, but this day it was for India. Amir was most certainly back! He caught Sharma LBW for 0 with the 3rd ball of the India innings, out came Kohli to the wicket, he faced a ball which caused him problems in Amir’s 2nd over, but not as much of a problem as the very next ball, he was caught by Shadab having faced 9 balls and made 5 runs. India were 6 for 2 in the 3rd over of their innings.
Golden Bat winner Dhawan was still at the crease, but that wasn’t to last long, Amir had plans for him and Dhawan was caught behind by Sarfaraz, he’d made 21 from 22 balls and Amir had 3 wickets! India were 33 for 3!
Things didn’t improve for India until Pandya came to the wicket, when India were 72 for 6 after Yuvraj was out for 22 LBW to Shadab, Dhoni only made 4 before he was caught by Imad from the bowling of Hassan and Jadhav was out for 9 caught by Sarfaraz from the bowling of Shadab.
Pandya played a superb, exciting innings, giving the India fans something to cheer about, he made 76 from 43 balls including 4 fours and 6 huge sixes. He was heading towards a well deserved century when we had the sight of another comedy run out as Pandya found himself at the same end as an unmoving Jadeja. It was a sad way for such a dynamic innings to end. India were 152 for 7, a long way away from the 338 they were chasing.
The remaining wickets fell for 6 runs and the ground erupted as Pakistan had won the game by an amazing 180 runs! The atmosphere had shifted in the ground once it became clear the trophy was going to go to the men in green, there were a few scuffles near to where I was sitting and many India fans had left the ground long before the game was finished. That was probably a good thing as the Pakistan fans were rightly overjoyed with this historic win. The Pakistan players may not look like Superstars, but they most certainly have become that with this win! I for one think it’s brilliant!