Monday, June 19, 2017

Pakistan are the Champions Trophy Winners and this is just the Start...

1992. 2009. 2017.

Pakistan is the 4th team in the history of international cricket to win all three ICC tournaments and only the 3rd team to hold every single ICC trophy including the Test Mace.

That is an achievement.

In 2015, Pakistan were the 9th ranked ODI team and they had to beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka to move to qualify for this Champions Trophy. Now, Pakistan are on top of the world and they have got there by beating the best in the business.

That is remarkable.

Pakistan's win in this Champions Trophy is stuff dreams are made of. It is a fairy tale ending. It is a movie where in a make believe fantasy world the underdog does the unthinkable and you leave the theater saying "this only happens in movies".

Along their glorious victorious run, Pakistan created some records and left us with some amazing memories. Here's a look back at the magic the team and its players created yesterday in the final and over the past two weeks.


Beat the Best
To be the Champions, one has to beat the best. Pakistan won this Champions Trophy by beating:

- World's number 1 ranked ODI team.
- Tournament Favorites.
- Defending Champions.

Highest Total in CT17
For a team that is not known for its aggressive batting or big hitting, a team that does not score 300 as often as it should, a team whose batsmen tend to play too cautiously, a team that is far behind global standards of modern day ODI cricket, put up the highest total of this Champions Trophy; and that too in the Final!

Highest Total in all Champions Trophies
Pakistan's 338-4 in the Final is the second highest total in a Champions Trophy match; it is the highest total against a test nation in Champions Trophy, and it is the highest total in a Champions Trophy Final.

Highest Total in Pakistan vs India ODIs
Pakistan's score was their second highest ever in ODIs against India and the highest score ever in a Pakistan vs India ODI played outside the Subcontinent and the UAE.

Largest Win in Champions Trophy
Pakistan's win the final by 180 runs is not only the largest win in a final of an ICC tournament, it is also the largest win against a test nation in all Champions Trophy matches ever.

Largest Win in Pakistan vs India ODIs
The win the final is also the largest win by runs in the history of ODIs between Pakistan and India.

This team achieved results that no one expected them to. The players did the same...

The man of the moment, Fakhar Zaman has left everyone awestruck. In his debut ODI series, he improved with every match and showed his best in the final with a scintillating knock of 114. He provided Pakistan with the much needed impetus at the start of an innings in every match and showed the world that Pakistan can also play modern day ODI cricket.

Highest Strike Rate in CT17
Fakhar had such a remarkable tournament that he not only was the highest run scorer with the best average for Pakistan, he was 6th highest run scorer in the tournament, had the second highest strike rate in the tournament (Min: 100 Runs), and had the highest strike rate rate among all openers in the tournament.

Most Boundaries in CT17
He brings to Pakistan's team the much needed explosiveness at the top of the order, which is evident from the fact that he hit the second most number of boundaries in this Champions Trophy.

Highest Strike Rate in all Champions Trophies
Among all batsmen that have scored a minimum of 150 runs in Champions Trophy matches over the years, Fakhar has the second best strike rate. Among these batsmen, Fakhar has the third best average, behind Dhawan and Wallace.

Highest Score in a Champions Trophy Final
Fakhar Zaman's 114 in the final against India is the 6th century to be scored in a Champions Trophy final, the second highest score ever in a Champions Trophy final, and the highest score ever in a winning cause in a CT final.

It was his first ever ICC tournament and he ended it with the Player of the Tournament Award and the Golden Ball Award for his 13 wickets. It has not even been a year since he made his debut for Pakistan and he has rapidly risen to become their primary spearhead. Besides the first match against India, Hasan took 3 wickets in each of the other matches and was instrumental in ensuring that Pakistan restrict South Africa, Sri Lanka, and England to chase-able totals. He continued his form in the final and played a part in India's destruction as well.

Highest Wicket Taker in CT17
Hasan's 13 wickets were the highest in this Champions Trophy. He was well ahead of the rest of the bowlers in terms of average and economy, and only behind Josh Hazlewood in terms of strike rate.

Best Average & Strike Rate in all Champions Trophies
Among all bowlers with at least 10 wickets in Champions Trophy matches, Hasan has the second best average, third best strike rate, and third best economy.

Most Wickets in a Champions Trophy
Hasan's 13 wicket haul in this Champions Trophy is the highest any bowler has taken in a single Champions Trophy. He sits equal with Jerome Taylor on this record, however at a much better average, strike rate, and economy.

Many, including me, criticized his inclusion in the ODI team. Despite his sluggish strike rate, he formed a potent opening partnership with Fakhar and gave Pakistan two successive century opening stands in the semifinal and final.

The 118 run stand in the semifinal was Pakistan's first century opening partnership in over two years. The last time Pakistan's openers put on two successive opening partnerships was 14 years ago; in 2003 when Imran Farhat and Yasir Hameed unleashed against New Zealand.

Azhar was Pakistan's second highest run scorer (and 8th overall) in this Champions Trophy. His 3 fifties in the Champions Trophy were the most by any batsman (equal with Virat Kohli).

The primary concern with Azhar opening the batting is his strike rate. He is not a naturally aggressive batsman and struggles to rotate the strike. However, he improved with every match and also took on the role of an aggressor in both matches against India when his partner was struggling.

I will be the first to admit that I am a convert and I believe Azhar has a role to play in this ODI side, especially if the aggressors around him can play theirs.

He is another player who has been heavily criticized by one and all, including me. What is his role? Is he a batsman who bowls or a bowler who can bat? Where does he fit in the batting line up? There are so many questions about his role in the team that even the team management can't probably answer.

Hafeez's ability to rotate strike is nonexistent. Against India, he scored 33 off 43. Against South Africa, he was worse - 26 off 53. Against Sri Lanka, he couldn't even get going as he went for 1 off 5 deliveries.

In the semifinal against England, he walked in to bat with only 39 left for victory. Hafeez got 31 of them in only 21 deliveries. His innings included 3 fours and 2 sixes. It was like an innings that a younger Hafeez would have played while opening.

In the final, he continued where he left off against England. His unbeaten 57 off 37 deliveries took Pakistan well beyond the 300 run mark. He batted with aggression and his stroke play was immaculate.

Hafeez's strike rates in those two innings against England and India are the 4th and 5th best strike rates for an innings by a Pakistani batsmen in Champions Trophy. His 50 in the final was the second fastest 50 by a Pakistani batsmen in Champions Trophy.

Against India, he walked in to bat with 10 overs left in the innings. After all these years, we might have just discovered the best position for him to bat on.

He has now been back in Pakistan colors for 18 months but he is not the same Aamer who left the scene in 2010. Since his return, Aamer has struggled with his swing, and wickets have been rare largely because of Pakistan's inept catching. He has been bowling well for quite some time, what was missing was the wicket taking ability.

Against India, in the Champions Trophy Final, he produced a magical spell, his best since his comeback, and had the tournament's top three run scorers back in the pavilion inside the first 9 overs. It was pure magic out there.

Not many bowlers can claim to have had the better of Virat Kohli. No bowler can claim that they got Kohli twice in two deliveries. But Aamer did just that. It was two perfect deliveries to the world's best batsman; the first one was edged and dropped at first slip; the second one had him caught at point.

Aamer's figures of 3-16 in the final are the second best bowling figures ever in Champions Trophy Finals. His average and economy being the best among these efforts.

Even though he was not Pakistan's first choice at the start of the tournament, he performed exceptionally well to end as the third highest wicket taker in this Champions Trophy. He forged a threatening new ball partnership with Aamer, and the duo combined at the death with some perfectly executed yorkers.

Junaid has a stellar record in ODIs, and despite falling behind due to injury and loss of form over the past couple of seasons, his partnership with Aamer forms a potent attack for Pakistan.

Even though he did not reach the heights that he did against the West Indies earlier in the season, his scores of 31*, 38*, and 46 against South Africa, England, and India are enough to demonstrate his immense talent.

He remains the only batsman to average above 50 for Pakistan in ODIs and the future of Pakistan's batting is in safe hands with Fakhar and him in the top order.

Even though there was no major contribution from either of these players, they did enough to complement Pakistan's batting and bowling to show the talent that they possess.

Malik failed when he got a chance but he looked sublime in his innings against India (group game) before he was run out and against South Africa before the rain interruption.

Imad displayed control with both the new and old ball and kept the run rate in check every time he came on to bowl. In the final he turned it on with the bat too in the end overs showing his value to the team's lower order.

Rumman ad Faheem got only one match each and either could have easily played more if it were not for the better form with the ball of Pakistan's first choice trio. Both made their debuts during the Champions Trophy and showed that they have the ability to compete with the best at this level. Rumman's accuracy and Faheem's utility with bat and ball will prove to be invaluable for Pakistan in the future.

Shadab Khan is a superstar in the making. His bowling is spot on, he can hit hard with the bat, and his fielding is top notch. He owned the point region for Pakistan and is arguably the best fielders in the team. This boy has a long and bright future ahead.

Last but not least, Pakistan's captain, proved to be a leader. To come back and lift the troops after the decimation against India in their opening match, would have been no easy task. The way Sarfraz, along with the coaching staff, kept this team motivated and inspired in every match after that is a phenomenal effort.

Sarfraz did not get much opportunity to showcase his batting talent in this Champions Trophy, but the one time when a captain's knock was required to take Pakistan into the semifinals, he led from the front. His unbeaten 61 against Sri Lanka ensured a Pakistan win after they were looking down the barrel after being reduced to 162-7 while chasing 237.

In that match, Sarfraz's unbroken partnership of 75 with Mohammad Aamer for the 8th wicket, created a new Champions Trophy record for the highest 8th wicket partnership.

Sarfraz is only 30 and he can captain this side for a long time to come if he can show the same level headed approach that he did in this Champions Trophy. He seems to have formed a healthy relationship with Micky Arthur; nothing can be better for a team like Pakistan than to have a united Captain and Coach to lead the charges.

They have a young team under their wings. Shadab is still a teenager; Babar is 22; Hasan and Faheem are 23; Aamer and Rumman are 25; Fakhar and Junaid are 27; Imad is 28. Only Azhar, Hafeez, and Malik are above 30.

This Champions Trophy win is just the start for this core group of players and they will play together for a long time to come. These boys can truly make Pakistan the ODI powerhouse that they once used to be.

Make your pitch on this post...

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2 Pitched:

  1. Anonymous said...

    Totally steamrolled team India in the final with help the help of some luck as well but credit to the way Pakistan batted, bowled and fielded after that first match defeat.

  2. Anonymous said...

    Do not agree with this. It was a one off win. A fairy-tale victory for sure but soon Pak will be back to their true self.

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