Revelation and redemption helped Pakistan turn world cricket’s order upside down as Fakhar Zaman’s maiden one-day international century and Mohammad Amir’s brilliant new-ball spell underpinned a landslide 180-run win over India in the Champions Trophy final.
Fakhar rode his luck for a spellbinding 114, caught-behind from a no-ball on three and escaping a run-out chance with just a single to his name in Pakistan’s total of 338 for four at The Oval.
Amir (three wickets for 16 runs), still winning his sport over again after his criminal role in the 2010 spot-fixing saga enacted seven years ago and just a handful of miles away at Lord’s, then reduced India to 33 for three – a perilous situation from which the overwhelming favourites were unable to recover, despite some astounding hitting from number seven Hardik Pandya (76).
Pandya raced to his half-century in 32 balls, with the third of three successive sixes in one over from Shadab Khan – but after pressing on to a new career-best, with four fours and six maximums, he was run out in a hapless mix-up with Ravindra Jadeja which encapsulated India’s miserable day.
Their defence of the title they won in England in 2013 foundered against the team who began the campaign ranked below all other competing nations at eighth, and lived up to that billing in an opening group match in which they lost to their greatest rivals by 124 runs.
What a difference two weeks have made, though, Fakhar delivering at every attempt after being brought in for his debut at the age of 27 and Amir’s pace and swing proving too good here for Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan – who could add only 26 runs between them to the 895 they had made over the previous four matches.
Amir produced an irresistible spell in which he pinned Rohit lbw for a duck with fast inswing, had Kohli dropped at second slip in his second over, then gone to a catch at point next ball, and Dhawan edging extra bounce behind.
When teenage leg-spinner Shadab then struck in his first over via DRS, hitting Yuvraj Singh pad before bat, and MS Dhoni pulled Hasan Ali (three for 19) for a tumbling catch in the deep, India were washed up at 54 for five – and there was no realistic way back.
Little went right for them, in fact, from the moment Kohli put Pakistan in on a glorious morning.
Fakhar overcame his early wobbles to share a century opening partnership with Azhar Ali (59) and unfurl a series of increasingly assured strokes among his 12 fours and two sixes in a 92-ball century.
Mohammad Hafeez – with a 34-ball 50 – and Babar Azam chipped in too to ensure Pakistan turned the promise into substance.
It was, all too briefly for India, eight for one when Fakhar went after a wide delivery from Jasprit Bumrah and edged behind – only to be reprieved by the no-ball call.
The harum-scarum left-hander had already survived with just a single to his name when he pushed Bhuvneshwar Kumar to cover and would have been run out had Kedar Jadhav managed a direct hit.
Azhar had a run-out scrape too, on 29, when Rohit missed the stumps from midwicket this time as Pakistan’s frenetic start continued.
It was compelling shot-a-ball viewing, several not necessarily despatched in the intended direction.
But the two openers became more convincing and in the 20th over, bowled by Jadeja, reached their 50s from consecutive balls – Fakhar second to the milestone from one delivery fewer when he cut his seventh four straight through the hands of Yuvraj at point.
There was a still a seat-of-the-pants element to Pakistan’s progress, though, and it was not the greatest surprise when the opening stand ended with a run-out mix-up in which both batsmen were stranded at the same end.
Azhar had to go, with his partner static in the non-striker’s crease, after Bumrah pulled off an unexpected stop at midwicket.
Fakhar responded with two overs of circumspection and then two more with brought him three fours and two sixes as he suddenly put his foot down against India’s two specialist spinners on his way to a century which was brought up when he swept Ravi Ashwin ferociously to the fence again.
India got their man finally thanks to a fine catch by Jadeja running back from point after a skewed big hit at Pandya.
Babar came out of the opener’s shadows – but after Shoaib Malik and he holed out in the off-side deep, Hafeez (57 not out) hit four fours and three sixes to power well past the 300 benchmark required against India’s powerhouse batting line-up in these run-fest conditions.
It was then over to Amir, who quickly dispelled the predictions of many that India could pull off a tournament and ground-record run chase – in the process silencing the majority support in a sell-out crowd for this high-profile showdown as their team folded to 158 all out in 30.3 overs.
Title-holders India were set a target of 339 to win the Champions Trophy final against arch-rivals Pakistan at The Oval on Sunday.
Sent in to bat by India captain Virat Kohli, Pakistan made 338 for four, with Fakhar Zaman’s 114 his maiden one-day international hundred.
Caught off a no-ball on three, left-hander Fakhar shared an opening stand of 128 with Azhar Ali (59) and then put on 72 with Babar Azam (46) for the second wicket.
India paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar, with an economical one for 44 in 10 overs, helped atone for some wayward bowling by his team-mates in an innings featuring 13 wides — more than two extra overs.
But Pakistan veteran Mohammad Hafeez’s 57 not out, including three sixes, left India, for all their batting strength, with a stiff chase against one of the best bowling attacks in this eight-team tournament.
As the excitement levels rise for what could be a mouth-watering Champions Trophy 2017 Final between India and Pakistan, our man on the ground Chetan Narula previews the all-important clash at the Kennington Oval, along with Ganesh Chandrasekaran.
Who do you think will pick up the trophy?