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It looked improbable when things began but as the weeks have gone by, Pakistan have emerged as 50-50 contenders for the ICC Champions Trophy title. When things began, the Sarfraz Ahmed-led side were a bleak unit with a horrid show to present themselves to the world in the tournament that has the top-eight ranked teams in the world. In effect, their showing against India was anything but that of a champion. And yet, two weeks later, they are in contention for the trophy and have gone from dark horses for some to title challengers and with good reason.
Pakistan vs India: Lost by 124 runs (D/L method)
Pakistan won the toss and put India to bat. That’s possibly as far as things that when right for Pakistan on the day in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Rohit Sharma gave yet another strong account of his ability at the top of order and Shikhar Dhawan continued his love affair with the Champions Trophy event. The duo put together 136 runs for the opening wicket to give India an advantage early on and the defending champions never took their foot off the gas. Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh added to things before Hardik Pandya provided a late surge to take India to 319/3. In contrast, Pakistan didn’t enjoy any real partnerships to put India under any pressure and folded by losing seven wickets for 50 runs. If the batting and bowling departments faltered, fielding didn’t fare any better – there were misfields, simple catches dropped and basic mistakes made. Not the best way to start for any team, let alone a team that had plenty to prove for themselves.
Pakistan vs South Africa: Pakistan won by 19 runs (D/L method)
Pakistan enjoyed luck of the weather on their side when they were at a good stage in their chase against World No 1 ranked South Africa. That over-par score helped them beat South Africa by 19 runs even with South Africa’s AB de Villiers left to rue the unfortunate situation. Once again at Edgbaston, South Africa batted first and helped by David Miller’s unbeaten 75, scored 219/7 in the 50 overs. This time Pakistan’s bowling was better with Hasan Ali picking three wickets. In the chase, Pakistan were comfortable at 113/3 after 27 overs before rain interrupted play and handed Pakistan their first win of the tournament.
Pakistan vs Sri Lanka: Pakistan win by 3 wickets
It is hard to call this match a spectacle of cricket for it was riddled with miserable fielding on Sri Lanka’s part that allowed Pakistan to come back into the match and seize their place in the semi-final in the virtual quarterfinal. Sarfraz would get plenty of credit for the chase and the win but one can’t forget the little asterisk of ‘terms and conditions apply’ in the form of Sri Lanka’s terrible fielding. Earlier, Pakistan allowed Sri Lanka to get away and put up a decent total. Batting first, Sri Lanka scored 236 all out with Hasan Ali and Junaid Khan both picking up three wickets each. In reply, Pakistan threw away a strong start but Sarfraz came to their aid and the win.
Pakistan vs England: Pakistan won by 8 wickets
This would undoubtedly be Pakistan’s most comprehensive and convincing win of the tournament and example that one can only take the 1992 World Cup winners lightly on their own peril. They’ve long carried the unpredictable tag and that’s what makes them dangerous – something England found out in Cardiff. Pakistan won the toss and put England in to bat and the Eoin Morgan-led side suffered a terrible middle order collapse that shaped things up beautifully in favour of the Pakistan. Once again, Hasan Ali emerged as the hero for Pakistan with another three-wicket haul. In reply, there were no dramatics this time from the Pakistan batting with Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman building the foundation which Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez added upon to get the win.