Champions Trophy final: Immovable India meet unpredictable Pakistan

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The team’s performance itself was so abject that Cricinfo’s Jarrod Kimber wrote, “Pakistan turned up on time, and all their players remembered to wear green. That’s all the positives covered”

 

 

Nobody gave them a chance as they were a faltering side. Even playing in the Champions Trophy was looking difficult before the West Indies tour. The team’s performance itself was so abject that Cricinfo’s Jarrod Kimber wrote, “Pakistan turned up on time, and all their players remembered to wear green. That’s all the positives covered.”

Pakistan’s road to CT final

Under a new captain, their first game was against the mighty India. Normally for India v Pakistan matches, people are hyped up and roads are seen deserted while the game is going on. Despite the fact that a sizeable amount of people watched the game, the streets were not deserted because many expected the team to lose — and lose they did.

Everything went wrong: the toss, bowling, fielding, and, of course, the batting. The bowling was so abysmal that Wahab Riaz ended up with the worst bowling figures in the history of the Champions Trophy with 0/87. The team’s performance itself was so abject that Cricinfo’s Jarrod Kimber wrote, “Pakistan turned up on time, and all their players remembered to wear green. That’s all the positives covered.”

Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur labelled it “shambolic”. It was not just ‘shambolic’ but a disgrace.

Enter the rain

Pakistan’s second game was against a much stronger and higher ranked South Africa. Hashim Amla’s priced wicket was taken by Imad Wasim when the Proteas were at 40; after that, they just couldn’t recover and ended up with a below-par score of 219.

With that being said, Pakistan’s shaky batting lineup was still not fancied to cruise home with a victory, and that was proven when three frontline batsmen were dismissed. However, when Pakistan were 119 for three, rain came in, and since Pakistan were ahead on the Duckworth-Lewis, they somehow got away with a victory.

Sri Lanka emulating Pakistan

In the third game against Sri Lanka, Pakistan restricted the Angelo Mathews-led team to a low score of 236. Hasan Ali and Junaid Khan took six wickets in between them.

Fakhar Zaman’s maiden fifty gave Pakistan a fine start, which was quickly undone by a batting collapse. At 162 Pakistan had lost seven of its wickets and an exit from Champions Trophy was looking ever so likely. Sri Lanka — known for its acrobatic fielding— d ropped multiple catches and missed many run out chances to give Pakistan an edge. Ultimately, the partnership of skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Amir took Pakistan to a memorable victory, leading them to the semi-final of Champions Trophy.

The battering of England

After a topsy-turvy performance in league games, not many had given Pakistan a chance. The England team had convincingly dispatched New Zealand, Australia and Bangladesh and they were more than happy to face the number eight ranked team in the semi-final.

Pakistan won the toss and invited England to bat first. The team that was habitually scoring and chasing 300 plus runs were shut down for a paltry 211, giving Pakistan a golden chance to drag them to a historic final.

Normal fans would’ve loved to see their team restricting the England team to a low score and then waltz to a victory, but Pakistani fans are well aware of the dismal batting performances of their team over the years and kept their hopes measured.

What they saw — what everyone saw — was nothing short of brilliant from Pakistan, especially Fakhar Zaman, and the men in green cruised to victory with almost 13 overs to spare.

Cricket pundit Alan Wilkins said, “England blitzed in Cardiff. Pakistan outbowled them, outbatted them, [and] outthought them. This will hurt England. Well played Pakistan.”

After that capitulation, predictably, England team was ripped to shreds by the UK press, rubbishing Eoin Morgan’s excuse of a worn pitch that had been played on two days previously by Pakistan.

Barring a hammering against Sri Lanka, Indian team cruised to the final, destroying Pakistan, South Africa and Bangladesh in the process.

Shikar Dhawan is Champions Trophy’s leading scorer with 317 runs, while his compatriot Rohit Sharma comes in second with 304 runs.

Before the previous game against India, Sarfraz said Pakistan will be doing something “out of the box”. However, that turned out to be a bit of a dud

 

In the bowling department, however, Hasan Ali is the leading wicket taker with 10 wickets, while Junaid Khan is at fourth with seven.

This is where the final will be decided: Pakistan’s bowling up against India’s batting.

India’s Rahul Dravid thinks anything above 250 will be a hard ask for Pakistan, and he won’t be wrong in saying that, especially considering the inexperience of the Pakistani lineup, playing a huge final in the Mecca of cricket, The Lord’s.

The good news for Pakistan is that Mohammad Amir is likely to be fit for final and he will be raring to go against a strong Indian batting lineup.

Pakistan’s bowling coach Azhar Mahmood said Amir was fit but did not comment on whether the bowler would play the final. “Amir bowled today. Amir is fit,” Mahmood said on Friday. “We have not decided about (playing him).”

In the semi-final, Amir was replaced by Rumman Raees, another left-arm fast bowler who made his ODI debut in the match; he shared the new ball with Junaid Khan and took two for 44 in Pakistan’s eight-wicket victory.

Along with Hasan Ali, Raees and Junaid were key players behind England’s ignominy.

“We have the bench strength,” Mahmood said. “Last match, when Amir was not there, people were worried about our main strike bowler not playing. But the way Rumman Raees came in and bowled, it showed we have the bench strength. We have guys who have such skill and such an ability that they can perform on any stage. It is just a matter of self-belief and confidence. I think anyone can replace anyone.”

India captain Virat Kohli heads into the final against arch-rivals Pakistan back on top of the one-day international batting rankings.

“The turnaround has been magnificent,” said Kohli of Pakistan’s progress. “They’ve beaten sides that looked really strong against them.”

An India-Pakistan clash, especially a final, is not just a game. It is war. Years of emotions, grudges, bottled anger, envy and rivalry are played out on a 22-yard pitch, making a cricket final a reflection of the charged emotions and mindsets of the people of the two neighbours.

Over the years, India have beaten Pakistan in seven consecutive ICC games. The two teams have so far met 15 times in ICC tournaments.

India have won 13 of these games. Winning has become a habit for India; thus, every time they take on Pakistan, there is less pressure on them to win, and more pressure on Pakistan not to lose. Indian fans also know that their side has been vastly superior to Pakistan at ICC events and an occasional loss here or there doesn’t change the balance of power.

Moreover, Indian team is much more confident and self-assured than Pakistan, owing to the considerable amount of cricket they have played — and played well.

Pakistan’s current team is a work in progress: new captain, players trying to cement a place in the team, and a couple of old players playing purely on past reputations. The fact that they are in the final of a big ICC event says a lot about the dramatic turnaround.

Harbhajan Singh feels “India is too experienced a side for Pakistan and we should come out winners at the end of it all.”

South African legend Graeme Smith, in his column, writes, “Despite how well this Pakistan team has bowled, it will need a few factors to go its way if it is going to go on to win the ultimate prize and beat its arch-rivals India for the trophy itself.”

Indian are an experienced side and they should be winning the final comfortably, however, the confidence boosting win against England make Pakistan a worthy opponent and India will be wary. Win or lose, Sarfraz can keep his head up high for a memorable performance in the tournament.

Before the previous game against India, Sarfraz said Pakistan will be doing something “out of the box”. However, that turned out to be a bit of a dud.

Here’s to hoping today’s match is a worthy contest and not a mismatch.

1 COMMENT

  1. Keep cherishing the moments of triumph you got in champion trophy final because you know Kal yeh SAB naah ho. You cannot be all time lucky.

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