Right from the start, Pakistan looked very little like, well, Pakistan. And that, intoxicatingly, was the fulcrum of their stunning thrashing of India by 180 runs to lift the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy at London’s Kennington Oval on Sunday. This is their first ICC title since winning the 2009 World Twenty20 in similarly incomprehensible manner, and first in the 50-over format since Imran Khan lifted the World Cup on a starry Melbourne night 25 years ago. It has come after more than eight years of defeat to India at ICC events, dating back to the 2009 edition of this tournament.
The foundation was stunning, with Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman forging Pakistan’s best opening stand in over two years, with the latter marching on to score his maiden ODI century in his fourth appearance. And where the script was apt for a trademark collapse, the level-headedness of Babar Azam was followed by the utterly unpredictable Mohammad Hafeez leading a superbly orchestrated late assault – the result being a total of 338/4.
India never got close, meaning that the highest successful chase in an ICC tournament final remains the 277/4 that MS Dhoni’s team made to clinch the 2011 World Cup.
This was a bad day for the Indian team, ranked second in ODIs and just one point behind South Africa. They bowled poorly for more than three-quarters of this match, conceding 25 extras, and lost their main three batsmen to Mohammad Amir even before the leading bowler of the tournament, Hasan Ali, had bowled a ball. From six wickets down in 17 overs, the inevitable was delayed by Hardik Pandya’s six-fuelled 76 before India were bowled out for 158 in the 31st over.
The match, in truth, was lost from the time India asked Pakistan to bat on a warm afternoon, under clear skies and on a flat surface. And to think, it could have been very different had Jasprit Bumrah not over-stepped to start the fourth over of this blockbuster final. Zaman was on 3 at the time, and looking out of sorts. Bumrah’s no-ball gave him a life, he then hit two plucky bottom-handed boundaries and that, as the old saying goes, was the horse bolting out of the proverbial stables.
India’s bowling and fielding was decidedly lacklustre today, and Azhar and Zaman took toll. Following opening stands of 40, 74 and 188, the pair delivered another strong start, and while it wasn’t always pretty, against a form team it made a massive difference. After seven overs, Kohli went to R Ashwin for spin and the move prompted Azhar to dance out and hit him for six over long-off. Ravindra Jadeja was cut, driven and slashed of fours by Zaman, and Azhar didn’t worry about keeping the ball down when he slapped Hardik Pandya past backward point.
Zaman collected his third fifty in a row, shortly which the opening stand was cut off with a run out – apt, considering the degrees of running on exhibition and India’s muddled bowling. He pressed on with some bullish strokes against Jadeja, who was taken for 16 in the 26th over, and Ashwin, who conceded 17 in the 27th. A bouncer gloved wide of Dhoni took Zaman into the nineties, and the century was a formality from there. The landmark came with a sweep off Ashwin, marking the arrival of a special Pakistan talent. Indeed, the ineffectiveness of India’s two experienced spinners was the big letdown. Ashwin and Jadeja too frequently bowled defensively and quicker than required, and this allowed Pakistan’s batsmen to nudge easy singles and whip deliveries off the pads. The two conceded 137 in 18 overs.
It took a wild heave to end Zaman’s fine century, with Jadeja running backward from point to hold the swirling catch. Pandya was the beneficiary, and getting ten overs for just 53 runs was worth plenty for India.
Azam, with 46 off 52 balls, and Hafeez, with an unbeaten 57 from 38 balls, ensured the strong start was not wasted. Azam dominated a partnership worth 47 at 7.23 run per over with Shoaib Malik, after which Hafeez added 71 in 45 balls with Imad Wasim (25* off 21 balls). Hafeez’s innings was especially vital, coming as it did after a personal lean spell and from a situation where other Pakistan teams could have easily collapsed. The veteran allrounder collected a smooth half-century in 34 balls, and rounded off the last over with a straight six off Bhuvneshwar.
India’s chase was dented with the wickets of Rohit Sharma – lbw without scoring – and Kohli – edging to point the ball after he was dropped at first slip – to the left-arm marvel of Amir, and there was no returning from there. Amir’s removal of Shikhar Dhawan in an opening spell of 6-2-16-3 left India searching for triage, which was never applied. Amir’s was, make no mistake, the ODI spell that Pakistan cricket fans would have yearned for from him since he was welcomed back into the international fold last year: 26 dot balls, appreciable movement, accuracy and the bloodied heart of India’s batting in his grip.
India still had those two casanovas of the ODI run-chase, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni, but this was not 2006. Yuvraj briefly set hearts fluttering with three fours in one Hafeez over, but was lbw to Shadab Khan for 22, moments before Dhoni miscued a pull shot off Hasan to deep square leg. The sixth wicket fell in the 17th over, also to the teasing leg spin of Shadab, and from there it was a matter of how long India would last. Pandya swung his bat gleefully again the spinners, hitting six sixes in his career-best 43-ball 76 before a mix-up with Jadeja ended the fun. The last four wickets subsided for six runs.
Like the last meeting between the two teams – their league match of this same tournament – this match was also a no-contest. The difference, however, was this was the final, and India were on the receiving end of a hammering.
Brief scores: Pakistan 338/4 in 50 overs (Fakhar Zaman 114, Azhar Ali 59, Mohammad Hafeez 57*) beat India 158 in 30.2 overs (Hardik Pandya 76, Mohammad Amir 3/16, Hasan Ali 3/19) by 180 runs