Miracles do happen!

Miracles do happen!

One never believed in miracles. But after what happened in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in United Kingdom from June 1 to 18, one has become a true believer. Unpredictable Pakistan concluded their Mini World Cup campaign in a magnificent style on Sunday at the Oval, which they had begun very poorly at Edgbaston. After suffering a humiliating defeat in their opener, many had written Pakistan off. Just when even their most loyal supporters were beginning to lose faith, Pakistan bounced back with commitment, belief and desire. Their performance and wins against South Africa, Sri Lanka and England were unbelievable. Underdogs Pakistan stunned all and sundry by making the final for the very first time. Pakistan not only defied logic but also broke the Indian hoodoo in the ICC events after a long time. Hopes were not high against defending champions India, who pummeled Sarfraz Ahmad and his charges on June 4 by 124 runs, in the final. But Pakistan, showing inspiration and the roaring ambition, turned the tables on their opponents through a marvellous performance in a gripping encounter, fought in an excellent spirit and holding the attention of the fans throughout, around the globe. It was a high-octane and thrilling contest. Pakistan literally took the wind out of India sails by outplaying them by 180 runs. This stunning triumph not only denied India their stated goal of retaining the title, but reaffirmed that Pakistan cannot be underestimated! This was Pakistan’s largest margin of victory, by runs, in 129 ODIs against India, surpassing their 159-run success at Delhi in 2005.

Revelation and redemption helped Pakistan turn world cricket’s order upside down as opener Fakhar Zaman’s maiden one-day international century and fast bowler Mohammad Amir’s brilliant new-ball spell underpinned a landslide win over firm favourites India in the Champions Trophy final. This was no innings. It was a dream sequence. Fakhar, four knocks into his international career, struck a buoyant big-match century against his team’s archrivals, denting key bowlers out of shape during a 128-run opening stand with Azhar Ali, before a bristling Pakistan grew the total with hitherto unsuspected power and skill. In the field, India were a mess of uncharacteristic misfields, as their bowlers racked up a wide count of 13. It was also impossible, at times, to believe that India were the side playing their fourth major final in six years.

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).

Throughout the tournament, Pakistan had proved that their bowling was their stronger suit with the skill and guile of players like Amir, Hassan Ali, Junaid Khan and Imad Wasim. As a team, Pakistan had been masterful in terms of how they squeeze teams and apply pressure consistently. But the key ingredient was reverse swing. In a tournament that had been characterised by the impotence of bowlers, Pakistan at last found a way to make the ball move laterally. It was only an inch or two; it was only for a while. But that reverse swing gave Pakistan a weapon and they had the bowlers who knew how to use it.

The biggest story behind Pakistan’s success was how well they read the conditions and how well they selected their playing eleven. Their performance in the field was equally selfless. In the end, the challenge thrown by Pakistan proved insurmountable for India. This was the first major final between India and Pakistan since 2007, when India defeated Pakistan in the World Twenty20 in South Africa. The hype around this game was also magnified by a paucity of matches between the two teams in the past 10 years, a result of political tensions. For a side who have not played a single match on home soil in more than eight years, this is unprecedented glory. Nothing in Pakistan cricket lasts a lifetime, nothing in Pakistan cricket comes easy. Pakistan, no doubt, have won hearts and minds in this tournament of top eight teams. What a moment!