Fakhar and the Pasthun Factor in Pakistan’s Champion’s Trophy Campaign

Michael Atherton, in The Times & The Australian, 20 June 2017, where the title isChampions Trophy: Fakhar, Amir lead charge as India lose plot”

It is a game of infinite possibilities and surprises. On a sweltering day, in front of a raucous full house of swaying blues and greens, and to a global audience in the hundreds of millions, Sarfraz Ahmed’s ragtag army, the exiles of the international game, outplayed the swaggering House of Kohli to win the Champions Trophy.

 Fakthar Zaman  


It was a day for underdogs everywhere and you would need a heart as cold and hard as a taxman’s not to have been moved by it. To flourish, cricket must encourage the notion of equality and fair play and we have to believe that any team, no matter the resources or the situation, has a chance of winning on any given day. India are the “haves” of cricket and Pakistan the “have nots”, but here Sarfraz’s side showed that a team prepared to have a go can succeed against the odds. Two weeks ago, they lost to India by 124 runs; now they beat them by the whopping margin of 180 runs. It showed what a sequence of victories, a dash of confidence and a smattering of new faces could achieve.

There were great stories everywhere. Here was the hitherto unknown left-hander Fakhar Zaman, who is short on orthodoxy but long on belief, on his haunches and planting a smacker on the turf after a swashbuckling first hundred in one-day international cricket. It was a hundred to rank with those scored by other southpaws — Clive Lloyd in 1975 and Adam Gilchrist in 2007 spring to mind — in global one-day finals. Lloyd was watching on in admiration yesterday, while Gilchrist was Fakhar’s hero when he was growing up in obscurity in the mountains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Fakhar is from the home town of one of Pakistan’s greatest batsmen, but not even Mardan’s most famous son, Younus Khan, could have hoped to have the kind of impact that Fakhar has had since making his ODI debut in the group game against South Africa.

Fakhar missed the thrashing by India in Pakistan’s opening game, when it was said that the men in green suffered from an inferiority complex. No Pashtun ever suffered from an inferiority complex, and he has been central to their resurgence and ultimate triumph. It could have been so different had Jasprit Bumrah not overstepped the front line in the fourth over, when Fakhar edged behind. Until then India had planned well, bowling straight and full, and had contained Fakhar. But the no-ball seemed to destabilise Bumrah, who disappeared to all parts thereafter, as did the rest of the Indian team. It was India who looked nervous and unsure of themselves as Pakistan grew in confidence.

Later, there was Mohammad Amir, once a teenager who was caught up in a series of terrible events in this city, now dismissing Virat Kohli and spreading his arms in trademark style, sliding to his knees to celebrate before being engulfed by his teammates. Kohli was the second wicket to fall to Amir in a devastating opening spell that also accounted for the opening partnership of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.

A team written off after their first outing, comprising a batting line-up thought of as the weakest of the eight teams, lacking the kind of dynamism and power common to others, put on the most exhilarating display of the competition. It was a touch one-sided, not that Sarfraz’s players minded as they joined together in prayer at the fall of the final wicket.

The Times

   ***  ****

ITEM II: Early Note by Atherton and The Times

Mohammad Amir removed all of India’s top three as Pakistan stunned their arch-rivals with a remarkable 180-run win in the Champions Trophy final at The Oval on Sunday. Title-holders India, set 339 to win, collapsed to 33 for three and 54 for five against a Pakistan side they had thrashed by 124 runs in their tournament opener at Edgbaston on June 4. They were eventually dismissed for 158, with 19.3 overs to spare. Amir finished with three for 16 in six overs and Hasan Ali, who kick-started Pakistan’s revival in their group-win over top-ranked South Africa, ended the match when he had Jasprit Bumrah caught by gleeful captain and wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed.

Left-arm fast bowler Amir, whose career was almost ended on the other side of London’s River Thames by a ban and jail term he received for his part in a spot-fixing scam during a 2010 Test against England at Lord’s, finished with three for 16. He dismissed Rohit Sharma (nought), India captain Virat Kohli (five) and Shikhar Dhawan (21) in a stunning new-ball spell.

Earlier, Pakistan made 338 for four after losing the toss with opener Fakhar Zaman’s 114 his maiden one-day international hundred in just his fourth match at this level.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 338-4, 50 overs (Fakhar Zaman 114, Azhar Ali 59, Mohammad Hafeez 57 no)

India 158 all out, 30.3 overs (H Pandya 76; Mohammad Amir 3-16, Hasan Ali 3-19)

Result: Pakistan won by 180 runs


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