“In the air… gone… not that important he’s gone the next ball! Pakistan cricket at its best! One minute down, next minute up!!” these words will be etched in the minds of Pakistani cricket fans for many many years to come. These were not merely the words of a cricket commentator named Nasir Hussain, these words were the words of redemption, the words of triumph and the words of vindication.
In just a span of 5 minutes, cricket fans across Pakistan moved from dropping their heads in despair and sadness to jumping around in jubilation and overwhelming joy! And the reason behind these emotions? The “felonious” M. Amir, a lad who took the cricketing world by storm a little over 7 years ago! Who made cricketing masters like Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar and Michael Clarke dance to his beats and who became on overnight phenomenon! What transpired later needs no more reckoning as well all know the story. When he came he shook the world! When he left he shook it again! and we were left wondering whether it was the last we have seen of the left handed genius.
But NO! His fate was not done with him yet, he roared back into the team and eventually found himself playing in London on the 18th of June 2017. The exact same city, the exact same crowd who didn’t even want to see his face after the spot fixing allegations, that very same crowd was roaring “AMIR!! AMIR!! AMIR!!” if that’s not a fairytale redemption story then I don’t know what is! All it took were his first two overs of the Indian innings and people of Pakistan were ready to forgive his entire dark past! Amir had been reborn, he had been redeemed and the passion in his eyes said it all! This is where he belonged and this is where he was going to stay for a long long time.
Amir’s heroics in the final weren’t the only talking point for Pakistan over the course of the 19 day tournament. After the trashing by the hands of arch rivals India in their very first group match, all hope seemed lost. Every game from then onwards was a knockout game and the first of them was against the heavyweights of South Africa with a star studded batting line up which was blown away by the Pakistani quicks in a way that only they can! Hassan Ali, with his magnificent 3-for set the match up for Pakistan and the Pakistani batting line up. Then came the debutant Fakhar Zaman, who was in the team in place of Ahmad Shahzad. The fire with which he played at the top of the order gave Pakistan a blazing start and they never looked back! Even after he got out on 37, Pakistan kept scoring freely and eventually got their first win of the tournament and suddenly a kindle of flame was lit up that maybe we can still do it!
Next up was Srilanka, arguably Pakistan’s easiest opponent of the group stage and once again it was the trio of Hassan, Junaid and Amir who blew the opposition away with passion and aggression! Setting a low total of 237 to win the game and book a semifinal spot! Fakhar again set the field on fire with a belligerent display of batting to get to his maiden ODI 50 but with Pakistani batting you can never be too sure! A collapse led Amir and Sarfaraz to the crease with Pakistan still needing 75 to win with only 3 wickets in hand but the duo ensured that they get over the line be it with a few lucky chances given to Sarfaraz and Pakistan ensued that they will live to fight at least another day.
It was semi Final time and Pakistan were up against the tournament favorites England! The same England which trashed the Pakistani bowling line last year and scored mammoth 444 but, this time they were facing a different Pakistan, this Pakistani team had a point to prove, this Pakistani team was not going to go down without a fight and once again the quicks stepped up their game when it mattered the most! Even without M. Amir (who was injured) Pakistan were able to bowl England out cheaply for just 211 with his replacement Ruman Raees bagging 2 wickets to help the cause. No batting stumbles this time ensured Pakistan a crushing victory over the tournament hosts by 8 wickets with Zaman once again firing at the top and getting his 2nd ODI fifty on the trot.
Then came June the 18th and all roads led to the Oval in London! Pakistan had already played out of their skin this entire tournament but now they had to face their biggest challenge yet! It was Pakistan vs India at the biggest stage of them all to know who will become the champion of champions! But for Pakistan, it was more than just a title, it was a golden opportunity to wash away all their previous errors against India and boy did they grab it with both hands! The Pakistan that stepped onto the field that day was a totally different team than the one India came face to face at the start of the tournament. There was passion, there was fire but above all, there was belief! A belief that yes we can do it!!
Fakhar once again led the way with an amazing maiden ODI hundred with help from Azhar Ali, Muhammad Hafeez, Babar Azam and a late flourish from Imad Wasim getting Pakistan up to 338! The weakest batting line up in the tournament had conjured up the highest score of the Champions Trophy 2017 and that too in the final! Later in the day, it was the Best Bowling Line up in the world against the Best Batting Line up in the world and the green army ripped through the men in blue like knife through butter… Amir claiming all 3 inform batsmen of India in Rohit, Shikhar and Virat in first 10 overs of the innings, Hassan 3, Shadab 2 and a wicket for Junaid Khan ensured Pakistan a mammoth 180 run victory at the Oval and the team which barely made it to the tournament, which was the lowest ranked team coming into the tournament lifted the trophy as the sun was high into the English sky! Pakistan had done it, they defeated the odds, they defeated mighty oppositions but most of all, they defeated the doubts that people had about them and gave the whole nation a reason to rejoice after a long long time. Pakistan Zindabad!
By Muhammad Sharjeel Asif