The ICC Champions Trophy final between India and Pakistan did carry with it all the cheers and whistles that came it usually warranted but there was always the underlying emotion that it may be another one-sided match for India in this year’s tournament. One sided match it was but India weren’t on the right side of that. India were found woefully wanting on the big day. Pakistan’s bowlers weighed in on them and took the mighty Indian batting line-up apart. India fell 180 runs short of the 339/run target they were supposed to chase. Let’s take a look at a few talking points from the match:
Pakistan’s dependable openers:
It seems Pakistan may have found an opening pair that they can bank on. Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali gave them an opening partnership of 74 in their match against Sri Lanka and then took England on a spin in the semi-final. Against India, they continued in the same vein. It was only in the 22nd over and 128 runs later that India got their first breakthrough.
The Fakhar Zaman discovery
Fakhar Zaman carried on though. He scored his third consecutive 50 and went on to make it a century. He came into the team as a replacement for the misfiring Ahmed Shehzad and he did not feature in Pakistan’s opener against India. Pakistan lost that match by 124 runs (D/L method) and openers Azhar Ali and Ahmed Shehzad put up 47.
Pakistan’s bowling line up:
Pakistan have produced some of the greatest fast bowlers in cricket history over the years. This match, and indeed this tournament, was a platform in which they showed they still have that pedigree in them. Mohammad Amir ensure that they got off to a flier by dismissing Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, arguably two of the most prolific run-scorers in India’s batting line-up. He then snared Shikhar Dhawan. Even after that, Pakistan did not let up the pressure as the likes of Hasan Ali and Junaid Khan tightened the noose around the Indians.
If there was any positive that came out of this match for India, it was Hardik Pandya’s innings. Pandya gave India a glimmer of hope when he went berzerk. He had Ravindra Jadeja to keep him company at that point and for a moment, it looked like he can chisel a way back for India through the grave. It was not to be, but his 76 off 43 balls against a side that took out most of his seniors before they got into double figures garners promise.
“After the India [group] match I said to my boys, the tournament is not finished yet,” said Sarfraz. It is tempting to draw comparisons to what Imran Khan did back in 1992 but that may be a case of shooting your mouth too quickly. But the fact remains that this is Pakistan’s first ICC title in 50-over cricket since that win. Sarfraz has led his team to victory from a position of defeat against Pakistan. He stuck on with Mohammad Amir despite him not picking a single wicket in the first two matches and brought him back into team in the final despite Rumman Raees impressing against England. He also decided to bring in Fakhar Zaman for a fast bowler like Wahab Riaz. In this tournament, barring that first match against India, his decisions and his leadership took Pakistan to the summit of a tournament they almost didn’t qualify for.