No. 8 in ICC ODI team rankings, 16 wins in 37 games between World Cup 2015 and Champions Trophy 2017, criticism everywhere. From all odds, they are now Champion of Champions Trophy. That’s the power and impact of Team Unpredictable Pakistan.
Before digging into the numbers and analytics, let’s have a look at the history of Pakistan team in the Champions Trophy before this edition
|Champions Trophy Season||Progress|
|1998, Bangladesh||First-round exit|
|2000, Kenya||Semi Final|
|2002, Kenya||First-round exit|
|2004, England||Semi Final|
|2006, India||First-round exit|
|2009, South Africa||Semi Final|
|2013, England||First-round exit|
The recap and pre-show
Except, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, all other top teams have played final of ICC Champions Trophy final but Pakistan never. When Misbah-Ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi stepped down from One Day cricket after 2015 World Cup, there were lots questions for this team. Who will lead this team? Who will be strong middle order batsman? Who will hold the role of a perfect all-rounder?
There were no answers. Azhar Ali took responsibility (indeed forced to take) and result in two years from there was deadly.
14 ODI series since their appearance in 2014 Asia Cup final, they had won six times. If you check to whom they have beaten, it sounds weird. Yes weird. They have beaten Sri Lanka, twice to Zimbabwe and West Indies and a 1-0 win over Ireland where the second match was abandoned. Post World Cup 2015, their campaign started with 3-0 lost to Bangladesh.
Champions Trophy campaign started for them with a game against arch-rivals India. Actually, it was not a game. It was insane indeed. Even fans were not expecting the way they played. Wrong team selection, wrong strategy, terrible fielding, and add-ons were average bowling. If I don’t talk about their batting in that match is quite good.
Then what made them rise above all?
It is not easy for any team to bounce back in the shorter tournaments like Champions Trophy. We had seen in the last edition where teams like South Africa, Australia, and even Pakistan sent off early on. And this time too they started what they tasted last time.
Precise Top Order Batting
Between the World Cup 2015 and Champions Trophy, almost every top team scored 400-plus or near in ODIs. Scoring 300 in ODI cricket nowadays is that simple equation. But Pakistan found difficult to accelerate the innings. Batting first, in 19 innings during this period, they only manage to par 300 scores six times. Three times against West Indies and once against each Zimbabwe, Ireland and Sri Lanka. In the chase, they struggled a lot. Only two times they crossed 300-mark; 312 against Australia at Adelaide and victorious 304 against England at Cardiff.
In this Champions Trophy, they got chance to bat first only once. But in all other matches, their chase began with patience which they were looking for since last two or three years. 40 runs opening stand against South Africa, 74 against Sri Lanka and hundred runs stand against England in Semi Final set base to their championship. And that confidence reflected in the final where opening pair scored 128 at almost 6 runs an over.
Middle order batting was not that good but it was OK. Runs from Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed at the crucial time built sensible innings. Against Sri Lanka in the last group match, Sarfraz ‘s 79 balls 61 runs gritty innings which lasted about two hours made their way clear to the knockouts.
Middle Overs Bowling
Pakistan had only three wickets in first ten overs before the final game of the tournament. So that was not an ideal start for them in four games. The middle overs period was the period where their all bowlers built the pressure of dot-ball, waited for a single wicket and converted it into two or three. Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Faheem Ashraf, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hafeez and middle-over goat Hasan Ali built that pressure to the opponent.
In a press conference in Pakistan Super League (PSL), one of the senior Journalist asked “Who is this?” when Hasan Ali was there for pressers and he claimed Player of the Tournament at the end of this tournament with 12 wickets, the most in the tournament and for Pakistan in an edition of Champions Trophy. In the middle overs this tournament, Hasan Ali bowled 183 balls conceding just 93 runs, he’s taken nine wickets. That’s an average of just over 10 and an economy rate of 3. Not the quickest one like other typical Pakistan bowlers, not even with reverse swing, he did get the ball to move a bit.
Fielding Effort at Their Best
It wasn’t a perfect fielding effort by them in the first game against India. In the first game, Hasan Ali dropped Yuvraj Singh off Sahadab Khan when he was on just nine and went to score fastest fifty for India in Champions Trophy. Even Virat Kohli got another chance before he finishes unbeaten 81 off just 68 balls.
Hazan Ali with the ball was awesome but his fielding was not up to the mark. His splendid catch to dismiss Kagiso Rabada in the second match was absolutely marvelous. He judged it quite early to his right, get underneath it quite comfortably. Even Mohammad Amir’s reverse-cupped catch which caused South Africa captain AB de Villiers for a golden duck for the first time in his ODI career was another fantastic effort by Pakistan fielders.
In the Semi-Final Fakhar Zaman grabbed brilliant to Moeen Ali which was the key wicket for Pakistan in that match. Then two run outs at the end was another example of their best fielding effort in the tournament.
Against India in the final, Sarfraz’s fielding position was something which was missing in last two-three years. He used his players to help his bowlers to catch at the right place where fielders didn’t disappoint too much. Kohli’s flight catch at a point on the back of a length delivery was another set of an example of their best fielding effort.
Overall they did something extraordinary after first defeat and magic happened after that would cherish al Pakistan cricket fraternity for many years for sure.
Image by: ICC