LONDON: Having been all but written off after their Champions Trophy opener with India, Pakistan consummated a seminal odds-defying turnaround to clinch the tournament with a whopping 180-run victory over their South Asian arch-rivals on Sunday.
Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Amir shone as Pakistan came from behind to pull off a major upset in the Champions Trophy final at The Oval. Title-holders India, set 339 to win, collapsed against a Pakistan side they had thrashed by 124 runs in their tournament opener at Edgbaston on June 4.
Fakhar capitalised on a lucky escape to strike a superb 114 and lift Pakistan to a commanding total of 338 for four and fast bowler Amir ripped out India’s top three batsmen before the defending champions subsided to 158 all out.
Pakistan had come into the tournament as the lowest-ranked team, but they beat South Africa and Sri Lanka to make the semi-finals where they knocked out hosts England with ease.’
“Fakhar is a great impact player, he played like a champion batsman today,” Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said at the presentation ceremony. “Amir bowled brilliantly today but all my bowlers bowled really well. We have a young team and credit to my boys.”
After India had won the toss, Fakhar, on three, was caught by wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni off a Jasprit Bumrah no-ball and the 27-year-old left-hander took full advantage to make his first international century.
He shared a fluent century opening partnership with Azhar Ali (59), the pair unleashing a barrage of crisp attacking strokes all around a sun-kissed ground. Azhar also continued his fine form, reaching fifty off 61 balls before he was run out following a mix-up with his partner.
Fakhar lofted Ravindra Jadeja over long-on for six and got to three figures by sweeping Ravichandran Ashwin to the boundary. He celebrated with an extravagant twirl of his bat and kissed the turf as the Pakistan supporters sensed an unlikely win.
Fakhar hit 12 fours and three sixes before skying a catch off Hardik Pandya but Pakistan had the perfect platform to make the highest total in a Champions Trophy final.
Babar Azam chipped in with a solid 46 and Mohammad Hafeez struck three sixes in a punchy unbeaten 57 that left India needing to produce the highest successful run chase in the tournament’s history to lift the trophy for the third time.
Within three overs, however, their reply was in tatters as Amir produced a devastating spell of bowling.
Amir, whose career was almost ended on the other side of London’s River Thames by a ban and jail term he received for his part in a spot-fixing scam during a 2010 Test against England at Lord’s, trapped Rohit Sharma lbw for nought with a swinging delivery and removed India talisman Virat Kohli with another fine ball which the captain could only edge to point for five.
Kohli, the world’s top-ranked one-day batsman, had been dropped off the previous delivery in the slips and the India fans looked shell-shocked as he trudged off. Their hopes now rested largely on the shoulders of Shikhar Dhawan who had been in fine form in the tournament but he made only 21 before nicking the inspired Amir to wicketkeeper Sarfraz.
Spinner Shadab Khan snared Yuvraj Singh lbw for 22 and Dhoni, India’s former captain who has saved the team on many occasions, pulled Hasan Ali to Imad Wasim at deep square leg to depart for four. Shadab picked up his second wicket when Kedar Jadhav, on nine, gave Sarfraz a simple catch and India appeared to be crumbling meekly at 72 for six.
Pandya, however, briefly raised their spirits with a quickfire 76, reaching his fifty with three successive sixes off Shadab and hitting six maximums in all before he was run out. Jadeja nicked Junaid Khan to slip for 15 shortly afterwards.
Hasan Ali, the player of the tournament who kickstarted Pakistan’s revival in their group-win over South Africa, then ended the match with 19.3 overs to spare. He had Ashwin caught by Sarfraz and forced Bumrah to lob another catch to the wicketkeeper, who pouched it gleefully to complete Pakistan’s first Champions Trophy win.
“It’s been an up and down ride for us but I’m just so proud of the boys,” Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur told Sky Sports.
“We dusted ourselves off after the defeat to India at Edgbaston and came back superbly,” added the South African after Pakistan’s first major global tournament success since they won the 2009 World Twenty20 in England. “The whole group kept believing. We knew we’d prepared well, we knew that game was an aberration, we knew we were better than that.”
This was Pakistan’s largest margin of victory, by runs, in 129 ODIs against India, surpassing their 159-run success at Delhi in 2005.
Kohli accepted his side had been outplayed, saying: “I want to congratulate Pakistan and their supporters.”
“They had an amazing tournament. The way they turned things round speaks volumes for the talent they have. They outplayed us, they were more intense and passionate on the day,” he said.
“Early wickets are never good, especially in a chase. We thought one big partnership would have set it up nicely. Pakistan had to earn their win and they made us make mistakes. We have no hesitation or shame to admit we didn’t play our best game today,” the Indian skipper added. AGENCIES