London: This is so typical Pakistan. Two weeks; just two weeks, it takes for Pakistan cricket to move from agony to ecstasy. On June 4, 2017, they played like world number 8 team in the ODI rankings and suffered a 124-run defeat in their ICC Champions Trophy opening game against Virat Kohli's India. On June 18, 2017, they have beaten the same team, defending champions and one of the pre-tournament favourites, fair and square to clinch their maiden ICC Champions Trophy title.
They were on the verge of getting knocked out of the tournament as Sri Lanka reduced them to 162/7 while needing 237 runs to win, in the final Group B encounter. Pakistan fumbled but then Sri Lanka fumbled even more as they dropped catches and Pakistan scraped their way towards victory playing “ugly” cricket with captain Sarfraz Ahmed scoring half-century and Mohammed Amir scoring unbeaten 22.
But Pakistan upped their game from thereon. They were never given a chance as they took on England. More so, when they put in England – a side who has made scoring 300 plus scores a norm over the last 2 years – to bat after winning the toss. England were squeezed out of the game even as Mohammed Amir, who tormented India in the final, did not play the semifinal. England were bowled out for 211 and Pakistan, did not dramatise the chase to win the match by eight wickets.
Come the final against India and with it, arrived the reminders of how India had a wood over them in ICC events across formats. Pakistan were put in to bat and even as Sarfraz said "We wanted to bowl first” the team turned Sarfraz’s hope of scoring more than 300 runs into reality. Fakhar Zaman scored a maiden international ton, Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez scored fifties, Babar Azam scored 46 as Pakistan put up 338.
Indian batsmen have chased down such totals in the past but then Pakistani bowlers turned up. Mohammed Amir scalped Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan before Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan drew curtains on India.
Since that 162/7 against Sri Lanka, Pakistan have scored 627 runs while losing just 6 wickets – 2 against England in semifinals and 4 against India in the final and scalped 20 wickets conceding just 369 runs; 51 runs more than what they allowed India to score against them in their first game.
Mickey Arthur, Pakistan’s coach, following that win over Sri Lanka, had said,
"When you win ugly, you learn a lot about the team." Pakistan seemed to have done that. They were threatening (to oppositions) instead of being self-destructive, they looked ready to play the waiting game instead of being unnecessarily glamorous. They were passionate, they were the winners and they were everything that Pakistan that can be at their highs as they clinched the ICC Champions Trophy for the first time.