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Posted at: Jun 19, 2017, 2:30 AM; last updated: Jun 19, 2017, 2:38 AM (IST)ICC CHAMPIONS TROPHY 2017

Oval & out

No. 8 Pakistan dethrone India to lift the Champions Trophy; the 180-run loss is India’s worst against Pakistan, and biggest for any team in the final of an ICC ODI event
Oval & out
Mohammad Amir celebrates after dismissing Virat Kohli in the final of the Champions Trophy at the Oval on Sunday. Reuters

Rohit Mahajan in London

India beat Pakistan 7-1 at the Olympic Park. And oh, India were crushed by Pakistan in the final of the Champions Trophy cricket tournament. The tennis-like 7-1 score was in hockey, the national game, some consolation for the defeat in cricket.

Exactly at 5pm British time, Pakistan’s players, united in a group, facing in one direction, bowed down in sajdah, making their thanks to the Man Upstairs.

They’d done the unthinkable. Ranked No. 8 in the world, having qualified for this tournament by the skin of their teeth, Pakistan had dethroned defending champions India to take their first global ICC trophy since the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup. 

India were bowled out for 158 in 30.3 overs, crashing to a 180-run defeat. The result was roughly 180 degrees opposite to what most people at the ground, especially the Indian supporters, expected today before the game began.

Chase is off

Set a very stiff target of 339, India were in trouble right away as Mohammad Amir, back in the team after missing the semifinal match against England with back spasms, got Rohit Sharma.

This was the third ball of the innings. The ball, angled in, swung in at pace, and straightened after pitching. Rohit was pinned right in front of the wicket, like a beautiful butterfly at a display board. He had no chance. A three-ball duck, in the biggest game of the tournament, obliterated Rohit’s excellent record coming into this match.

Amir then silenced the Indians in the stands when he got Virat Kohli, a ball after Kohli had been dropped by Azhar Ali at first slip. Kohli tried to flick the ball to the leg but got a leading edge — a simple catch this time, to Shadab Khan, and this time no mistake. Amir leapt up in the air, punched the air, screamed in delight. The fans in the stands added their voice to his, and the Oval reverberated with cries of “Amir, Amir” and “Pakistan Zindabad”.

That was that. The fight was gone out of India. Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh struck a few blows, but really, the fight was over. India lost Dhawan and Yuvraj and MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav quickly, and it was now down to 72/6.

A few lusty blows from Hardik Pandya (76 off 43) only delayed the defeat, and reduced the margin. But there was no doubt the match was over after the fall of the first three Indian wickets.

Zaman fires Pak

Fakhar Zaman rode his luck to get a match-winning 114, off 106 balls, in only his fourth ODI after an iffy start, during which he endured a hit on his helmet and surviving when on 3 (off 7 balls) after being caught off a no ball.

Azhar Ali played second fiddle in their partnership of 128 for the first wicket in brutal heat as the Indian challenge and attack withered. The spin attack of Ravichandran Ashwin (0/70 off 10 overs) and Ravindra Jadeja (0/67 off 8) was brutalised, three sixers being hit off Ashwin and two off Jadeja. The wicket was flat and the ball flew off the bat.

No. 3 Babar Azam got 46 off 52, and Shoaib Malik 12 off 16 without a four, and this seemed to drag the rate of scoring a bit.

But then, out of the blue, Mohammad Hafeez smacked 57 off 37 balls. This was a huge change from his last few innings — he’d got 33 off 43 against India, 26 off 53 against South Africa, 1 off five against Sri Lanka. He changed gears in the semifinals —  31 off 21 against England, and now 57 off 37 in the final got Pakistan a winning total.

After 25 overs, Pakistan were 134/1, and 179/1 after 30. It seemed that Pakistan would double that in 50, reach at least 350, but some fine bowling in the last five overs, and some nervous and unconventional attempts by the batsmen to hit fours, saw the innings end at 338/4.

That total seemed adequate for Pakistan despite the strength of the Indian batting line-up — because this was the final, because Pakistan had a very fine pace attack, and because the pressure was on the Indian batsmen.

Out of the blue

Two years ago, Pakistan, then ranked No. 8, pulled out of a tri-series involving West Indies and Zimbabwe because they feared that if they lost a match in it, they would fall down to No. 9 and would miss this Champions Trophy. They qualified the last for it. They had the worst possible start, thrashed by India. And they were the last men standing, winning a 50-over title a quarter of a century after their first, the 1992 World Cup.

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