Inspired by a century from rookie Fakhar Zaman and a thrilling match-winning bursts of fast bowling from Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali, the men in green stormed to only their second ICC global 50-overs title.
The margin of victory – by a massive 180 runs with just under 20 overs to spare – was as emphatic as it was surprising for a team who tested the skin on their teeth and the seats of their pants to the limits to get over the line.
It was a win forged on a brilliant individual performances and marshalled by Sarfraz Ahmed’s superb captaincy but the green and white masses who stayed to celebrate when the final wicket fell in India’s reply will know it also relied on a huge slices of luck.
Zaman’s brilliant innings to smash a fearless 114 so nearly did not happen when he was reprieved by a no ball from Jasprit Bumrah after being caught behind on three, in the fourth over.
But taking his second chance he embarked on an electrified charge which wrenched the game back in Pakistan’s favour.
Considering it was only the 27-year-old’s fourth ODI, having been plucked from Pakistan league cricket by coach Mickey Arthur after impresssing at a talent spotting camp in Lahore earlier this year, it has been a rise as stunning as it seemed unlikely.
Around his courageous smash and grab of 114 in 106 balls, Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez contributed half centuries as well as Pakistan climbed to an impressive-looking 338-4.
And while a hugely powerful India line up still fancied their chances on a decent wicket, their confidence was left in ruins after a thrilling burst from Amir to rip the guts from the response.
His opening five overs – the first nine in their reply – left India 33-3.
Swinging the ball with searing accuracy he pinned Rohit Sharma lbw third ball, saw Virat Kohli dropped at slip in his second over before returning with his next delivery to get his man caught at point next ball.
And then he found the outside edge of Shikhar Dhawan.
Another recruit from the Lahore camp, 18-year-old leg spinner Shadab Khan took two crucial wickets to leave India six down – the first demanding a review from his captain against Yuvraj Singh which saw a not out lbw decision overturned.
And when Hardik Pandya’s blistering cameo (76 in 43 balls) ended when he was run out in Pakistani style with both him and Ravi Jadeja running for the same end, the turnaround seemed complete.
Amir’s redemption from the match-fixing scandal of 2010 now seems complete, the turnaround from three months in prison in 2011 to yesterday’s hero sealed with his part in Pakistan’s first 50-overs trophy since Imran Khan’s Cornered Tigers in the World Cup 25 years ago.
In October 2015, this Pakistan side only just made it into the tournament as one of the top eight teams in the world given just days after the cut off point they were beaten by Zimbabwe and slipped to ninth.
If turning things round since then has been impressive, to turn fortunes round since their opening match against yesterday’s rivals, when they were thrashed by India by 124 runs, has been even more so.
Since that moment, they have gathered impressive momentum, beating Sri Lanka in their ‘quarter final’ when captain Sarfraz was twice dropped before steering them home and then thrashing England in the semi-final.
After Fakhar’s escape yesterday it seemed their name was on the trophy.
By the time Sarfraz took the final catch, off the bowling of the tournament’s leading wicket-taker Hasan Ali, who finished yesterday with 3-19 and the Champions Trophy with 13 wickets, there was barely an Indian fan to witness it.
Unable to stand the celebrations, unable to believe it or a combination of both.
Source : EXPRESS