Kolkata: Well to be honest, no one saw this coming. Hosts England who were the outright favourites entering into the contest were thoroughly outplayed by a spirited Pakistani side who unexpectedly becomes the first team in this Champions Trophy to enter the finals.
The host side had been enjoying a dream run so far in the tournament as they were the only side that progressed to the semis without a loss. But as they say, cricket is a highly unpredictable sport and quite frankly, no one saw Pakistan beating England in such a way, to book a final berth.
Speaking of the match, England batted first and Pakistan couldn’t have asked for a better start as debutant Rumman Raees dismissed the in-form Alex Hales for just 13 runs. That set the tone for the rest of the innings to come.
Pakistan, who were without the services of one of their pacer Mohammad Amir hardly missed him as the other bowlers did the job nicely. As a matter of fact, the bowlers struck whenever they felt that England were trying to make a comeback in the game.
Shadab Ali bowled well to send back the mainstay of the English batting-Joe Root for just 46 runs and after his dismissal, it all looked like a downslide for the hosts as they never really got going.
Hasan Ali, who has been in terrific form so far in this tournament took the crucial wickets of Johnny Bairstow (43), skipper Eoin Morgan (33) and the danger man Ben Stokes (34) that destroyed the backbone of the English batting as they found it very difficult to dominate the Pakistani bowling. Even statistics prove that.
The bowling was so tight and accurate that not a single six was hit in the entire 49.5 overs that the English batsmen batted. Moeen Ali (11), Liam Plunkett (9) and Adil Rashid (7) couldn’t do much to add to the score as England were bundled out for a meagre 211.
If there’s something that has continuously been a worry for Pakistan in this tournament, it’s been their batting. Chasing low totals, their batsmen panicked often and helped the opposition come back into the game, but this time, they made sure that a similar thing didn’t happen anymore.
Opener Fakhar Zaman (57) who has been in terrific touch in all the games he has played once again played an absolute gem of an innings to register his second fifty on the trot as he along with Azhar Ali (76) put on an 118 run opening stand, which totally brushed away all the hopes of an English comeback.
This was the highest opening partnership for Pakistan in the history of the Champions Trophy. Both of them dominated right from the word go, as they did not let the English pacers find their rhythm.
The solid opening stand thus sealed the fate for the Englishmen as all they could do was to bowl the remaining balls and hope for a miracle. But Pakistan did not let this huge opportunity slip away easily as even after the openers departed, Mohammad Hafeez (31*) and Babar Azam (38*) ensured that there are no more jitters in Pakistan’s way of making it to the final on Sunday as they romped to victory with 77 balls to spare.
Man-of-the-match Hasan Ali became the highest wicket taker for his country in the Champions Trophy with ten wickets, surpassing the record of nine wickets set by off-spinner Saeed Ajmal in the 2009 edition of the competition.
So now, we have an unexpected entrant into the finals of the 2017 Champions Trophy. The hosts indeed had their first poor outing on the field and sadly for them it was on the day when everything was on the line.
They truly had a memorable tournament but the action now shifts to the second semi-final in Edgebaston, where ‘favourites’ India would go up against a tricky Bangladesh side.
Well with this match today, one thing is for sure that there isn’t any room for complacency for any team. Definitely, this match will go down as another upset in this tournament, which has had many so far.
England 211 all out in 49.5 overs (Joe Root 46, Johnny Bairstow 43; Hasan Ali 3/35) lost to Pakistan 215/2 in 37.1 overs (Azhar Ali 76, Fakhar Zaman 57; Jake Ball 1/37) by 8 wickets