Boxing star Amir Khan helped inspire Pakistan to a famous win at the Oval on Sunday.
Khan told Sky Sports that he gave a team talk to Pakistani cricketers ahead of the match and then watched on as Sarfraz Ahmed’s men trounced India by 180 runs in the final.
Tea & coffee with Faheem Ashraf, Imad Wasim, Junaid Khan and Shoaib Malik before there game with India tomorrow. All the best Pakistan. pic.twitter.com/2xFoCgTi2f— Amir Khan (@amirkingkhan) June 17, 2017
With Pakistan captain. Pak v Ind. let's go this Pakistan. pic.twitter.com/5YGz9N4Hwp— Amir Khan (@amirkingkhan) June 18, 2017
Mohammad Hafeez hailed Pakistan’s team spirit as the key to their stunning Champions Trophy final triumph against India.
Just two weeks ago, Pakistan were at a low ebb after crashing to a humiliating 124-run defeat against India in the group stage.
But Pakistan batsman Hafeez says his team-mates vowed to stick together despite the avalanche of criticism and they reaped the rewards in memorable fashion on Sunday.
Gaining sweet revenge over India, Pakistan thrashed their arch rivals by 180 runs at The Oval to win the Champions Trophy for the first time.
“It’s a great team effort. After losing the first game, we had no chance to lose again,” said Hafeez, who played an important role in the win with a classy 57 not out.
“We showed great character. I’m so happy for the nation of Pakistan who have been waiting for this for a long time.”
Fakhar Zaman’s maiden one-day international hundred laid the foundations for Pakistan’s formidable total of 338-4.
After man of the match Fakhar finished on 114, Pakistan pace bowler Mohammad Amir ripped the heart out of the India batting line-up with the wickets of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli.
India, looking to retain the Champions Trophy, went down without a fight as they collapsed to 158 all out and Amir felt his spell was crucial.
“Rohit, Dhawan and Kohli have been in tremendous form so I was looking for early wickets — and I did it,” he said.
Pakistan’s first global 50-over title since the 1992 World Cup reflected well on their Australian coach Mickey Arthur, who kept his squad from losing focus after their dismal display against the Indians earlier in the tournament.
Arthur admitted Pakistan were desperate to prove they could go toe to toe with tournament favourites India with the title up for grabs.
“It’s been an up and down ride for us but I’m so proud of the boys,” Arthur said.
“The whole group kept believing, we knew we were better than what we showed in the first game against India.
“That was an aberration. We want to be more consistent as a team.”
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed added: “After the India match in the group stage, I told the players the tournament hadn’t finished yet. Credit goes to my boys.”
First ICC tournament as captain and he wins it. Sarfraz Ahmed is here to stay.— Roha Nadeem (@RohaNadym) June 18, 2017
“Fakhar is a great impact player, he played like a champion batsman. Amir bowled brilliantly but all my bowlers bowled really well.”
India captain Kohli conceded Pakistan were worthy winners and, while he claimed to be proud of his players, his admission that the new champions played with more passion was a damning indictment.
“I want to congratulate Pakistan first, they had an amazing tournament. The way they turned things around speaks volumes for the talent they have in their side,” Kohli said.
“They were more intense and passionate today, they deserved to win.”
“I’m disappointed but I have a smile on my face because I’m proud of how my team has performed in the tournament overall.”
If you are follower of Pakistan cricket you are guaranteed a roller-coaster ride, high on cloud nine one day and hitting the pits the next day.
But, when they get going, it’s quite a joy ride where even the mightiest of opponents are made to look like paupers.
Their performance in the current Champions Trophy tournament is a perfect example of how and what they are. Since their 124-run defeat to India in their first match, they dismantled top-ranked side South Africa, Sri Lanka and hosts England to set up a mouthwatering summit meeting with India.
Blessed with an abundance of natural talent, they always have the bowlers to tame the best of batting line-ups in the world as they have demonstrated in English conditions. Following their opening debacle where they conceded 319 runs, no other team has been able to score more than 236 runs (made by Sri Lanka) against them. South Africa and England, who possess some of biggest power-hitters in the modern game, came a cropper as they could only muster totals of 219 and 211.
The Pakistan bowlers led by the brilliant pacer Hassan Ali will once again be under the spotlight as they get their best shot at redemption when they line-up against a powerful Indian batting unit at the Oval on Sunday.
If there is any bowling that can stop the marauding Indian batsmen then it is this Pakistan bowling unit – comprising the immensely talented Mohammad Amir, provided he is fit, Hassan Ali, experienced left-arm pacer Junaid Khan, young leg-spinner Shadab Khan, the miserly left-arm spinner Imad Wasim besides the seasoned off-spin of Mohammad Hafeez.
Debutant left-arm pacer Rumman Raees is an able replacement for Amir as he showed in the first semi-final against England. Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed has settled in nicely with this bunch and knows exactly when to push them in the attack for maximum effect.
As it has been throughout the tournament, the odds continue to be stacked against Ahmed’s boys in the final as well. Barring the odd blip against Sri Lanka, defending champions India have trampled all their opponents to storm into the final. Unlike Pakistan, who draw most of their strength from bowling, India have proved to be very effective with the ball as with the bat.
Besides, Virat Kohli and Co have previously played two games at the Oval which has resulted in a defeat (against Sri Lanka) and a victory (against South Africa), so they know precisely what the surface has in store.
In contrast, Pakistan will have to adapt quickly as they will be playing their first match of the tournament at the Oval.
Above all, the biggest factor that will determine the winners will not be the odds or their past displays. It will all boil down to how much self-belief Pakistan carry into the game. In the previous match they were a bunch of nervous wrecks allowing India to dictate.
If Pakistan raise their level, backed by a strong desire to win, we can expect a cracker of a contest where Ahmed’s boys can even lay their hands on the trophy. They will have to seize the key moments and run away with it but if they falter, Kohli’s boys will not give them a second chance.
The plan is simple: deny Indians the runs, the rest will take care of itself, provided Pakistan batting doesn’t have a hopeless day.
Pakistan have done exceedingly well to win three matches in a row after a heart-breaking defeat consigning their unpredictability factor to the bin. However, the big question returns to haunt them again ahead of the final: whether they have left enough gas in the tank for a fourth victory or will they get overwhelmed by the big occasion and the ‘old enemy’?