Pakistan completed an incredible run from No. 8 in the ICC ODI rankings to win its maiden ICC Champions Trophy title, with an 180-run annihilation of India at The Oval on Sunday (June 18).
Equally importantly, it also got the monkey off its back as it was the first time it defeated India in an ICC event since 2009, and only the third time ever.
It meant it ended the tournament in stark contrast to how it had started it, when it was on the other side of the result as the sides met in a group game.
Everything apart from the toss went Pakistan’s way. Sent in to bat, Pakistan rode on Fakhar Zaman’s maiden ODI ton to post a daunting 338 for 4 before Mohammad Amir’s carnage with the ball destroyed India for 158 in just 30.3 overs. The margin could have been even bigger if not for Hardik Pandya’s late 43-ball 76.
Pakistan had a dream run in the tournament, but doubts remained over its ability to tackle the pressures of an India game, let alone that of a final. It answered that in emphatic fashion with a clinical performance, outplaying India in all facets of the game.
First, it was the turn of the batsmen, led by Fakhar. The opener did not play Pakistan’s earlier game against India, and showed Virat Kohli’s men the difference he can make as he smashed a swashbuckling 114 off 106 balls. It could so easily have been his first failure when he was caught behind on three, but Jasprit Bumrah had overstepped.
Importantly, Fakhar made use of the good fortune and went on to add 128 for the opening wicket with Azhar Ali (59) before Babar Azam (46) and Mohammad Hafeez (57* off 37) capitalised on the platform.
Pakistan still had a tough task of restricting the in-form Indian batsmen. It had spoken about exposing India’s hitherto untested middle order and Amir took care of the execution, nipping out India’s top three run-scorers -- Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Kohli -- within the first nine overs. Once that was done, the rest of the plan took care of itself.
On the other hand, India looked surprisingly switched off. R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja conceded 137 runs from a combined 18 overs, Bumrah was so ordinary he didn’t even complete his quota. India bowled 13 wides and three no-balls, missed run-out opportunities and was generally sloppy.
In fact, the first phase of the innings was a contest of which team was sloppier. Quite uncharacteristically, India won that battle, which meant Pakistan edged ahead in the actual game.
India’s biggest miss came when Bumrah had Fakhar caught behind in the fourth over, only for the wicket to be denied by a no-ball.
The runs were flowing but it wasn’t even like Pakistan’s batsmen were in complete control. Fakhar in particular was all nerves but once he settled in, he played some terrific shots. Apart from his temperament, his nimble footwork that messed up the spinners’ lengths was impressive.
With Azhar steady, Pakistan coasted to 114 without loss by the 20th over while India looked clueless and wrecked.
India got a lucky break when a ball-watching Fakhar left Azhar stranded, but the youngster showed tremendous maturity in moving on.
Zaman ensured Pakistan kept the momentum, smashing Ashwin and Jadeja for two sixes and three fours in a two-over span. Another boundary with a sweep off Ashwin took him past his maiden century, but he fell soon after when he carved Pandya to point.
But yet again, the set batsman ensured Pakistan wouldn’t lose momentum. Babar took control, dominating a 47-run stand for the third wicket before the pair passed on the baton to Hafeez and Imad Wasim, who shared an unbeaten 71-run partnership off 47 balls as Pakistan added 91 in the last ten.
Once the baton was passed to the bowlers, Amir didn’t look remotely close to someone who had missed the previous match with back spasms. He bent that back, bowled with pace, and also got sharp swing.
One such inswinger trapped Rohit leg before off the third ball, separating the successful Indian opening pair of Rohit and Dhawan without a run on the board.
The bigger wicket came in Amir’s next over when Kohli got a leading edge to point. It was even more incredible, considering Kohli had been dropped at first slip just the previous ball.
Dhawan looked in good touch and began with a few boundaries but Amir was not going to let him get away. He cramped the left-hand opening batsman for room with a tight channel outside off and got him to nick with extra bounce, leaving India 33 for 3 in nine overs.
Amir’s brilliance left India’s senior pair of Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni with a mountain to climb. Yuvraj counter-attacked with three boundaries off Hafeez but was undone by Shadab Khan. The leg-spinner struck Yuvraj’s pad in his first over and then forced his captain to take a successful review, leaving India in a shambles at 54 for 4.
That became 54 for 5 in the very next over when Dhoni hooked Hasan Ali straight to deep square-leg. Wickets tumbled but Pandya kept attacking at one end with some astonishingly clean strikes. Three consecutive sixes took him past his half-century but just when Indian fans could even think of hoping for a miracle, a terrible mix-up saw Pandya and Jadeja at the same end with the latter refusing to sacrifice his wicket.
They blamed each other before a fuming Pandya walked off, even as Pakistan celebrated at the other end. That kind of summed up India’s day.