Sunday, June 18, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : India vs Pakistan - The Finals

The mother of all battles as it was expected today, India took on Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy finals at the Oval.
A fresh pitch, looking good to hold on a sun drenched ground, both team kept their eleven unchanged from the semis.
Virat won the toss & put Pakistan into bat, keeping in mind that India are better at chasing - was that the first signs of nerves, or was it over confidence going into the game ?? Why wouldn't you bat first & post a big total to put opposition under pressure, rather than chase under pressure, was the question in mind, but at that stage, it looked good for India.

Starting the bowling, Bhuvi was spot on with his line & length as he put a stranglehold from the beginning, but Bumrah sprayed from the other end, as Fakhar got away with a caught behind on a silly no ball, & boundaries started to flow. At the end of first 6 overs, Pakistan were going full steam with 36 runs on board without a wicket & after the 1st Power Plays of 10 overs, it was 56 runs. The no ball caught behind & a couple of missed run out chances started hurting India. At the end of 17th over, when the 1st drinks break was called, Pakistan were sitting pretty with 93 for no loss.
By the 20th over,  both the openers had notched up their individual fifties As the total boosted to 114 for no loss - Pakistan had put up back to back opening century partnership & looking ominous, As Indian fielders started to look worried.
Finally in the 23rd over, Azhar Ali got run out to a instinct stop by Bumrah & return to Dhoni, who whipped the bails as the batsman was way out of the crease. Pakistan 128 for 1. The batting domination however continued as Fakhar went on to get his 1st ODI hundred in just 92 deliveries, but then gave away his wicket holing out Pandya to be caught by Jadeja with score reading 200 for 2 in the beginning of the 33rd over. However, even this did not help India's cause, as batsmen kept profiting from a placid wicket & runs just flowed. Md Hafeez, normally a sedate player went hammer & tongs as well, scoring a wonderful unbeaten fifty, getting 57 from just 37 deliveries, with some glorious hits to the fence, as Pakistan managed a huge total of 338 for just 4 wickets.
At the fall of Babar Azam in the 43rd over, It looked as if India might pull back, but Pakistan scored 71 in the last 7.3 overs, & went past 300 runs easily. It was only Bhuvaneshwar Kumar who bowled with purpose & a bit by Pandya, as rest of the bowlers just sprayed all over. Bumrah was simply erratic, over stepping continuously, which hurt India immensely, especially Fakhar, who escaped getting out when he was just 3runs & went on to score his century & help Pakistan build a huge total. India gave away 25 extras, which was too many for a final. Definitely a total that would bring smiles on the Pakistan bowlers face to defend. Halfway mark, Match on, with Pakistan on the advantage, & India regretting the decision at the toss.
Most of the experts, coming on air in the innings break, believed that India had the batting line up to chase this total, but it would be tough.

India started in the most horrific manner possible. They needed a good solid start chasing, but Amir had Rohit out, plumb in front of the wicket in the very first over for no score. The big fish Virat Kohli, known for excellent run chase records, looked tentative & nicked Amir in the slips, only to see that spilled - but in the very next delivery, he was snared by Shadab at point, off Amir. India's best hope for a win snubbed off. Wickets continued to tumble as in form Shikhar Dhawan went next caught behind & then veterans Yuvraj & Dhoni got out - the score looking a dismal 54 for 5 in the 14th over & it was all over the bar shouting.
Hardik Pandya did make a bold attempt to at least defy the Pakistan attack. He hit six sixes in his breezy knock of 76 runs in just 43 deliveries & showed, that batting conditions were not tough, before Jadeja stupidly got him run out & India's batting folded up without a fight after that to be all out for a paltry 158. In fact, its just because of Pandya, that India managed to go past 100 & then 150 runs. Indian batting looked sleep walking in distress & very very ordinary application against an inspired Pakistan bowling. In the end, it was a one sided victory for Pakistan, & that too against India after a very long time.
Md Amir had broken India's back with 3 wickets for just 16 runs in 6 overs, with scalps of Rohit, Virat & Shikhar - top three Indian batsmen in the tournament. Hassan Ali, too picked up three wickets for 19 runs. he certainly was the find of the tournament for Pakistan, & rightly declared the Man of Tournament; as was Fakhar Zaman, who got his maiden ODI hundred & was adjusted the Man of Match. India's sole consolation was Shikhar Dhawan getting the Golden Bat award as the leading run getter.
A tournament, where Pakistan were 8th seeded & no one had given them any hope of even reaching the last four, especially after getting thrashed by India in the first match.....they came back & how - winning against all the top teams, ....SA, Sri Lanka, England & finally against India - certainly a stupendous effort & a massive victory for them.
Back home, this could signal the last days of MS Dhoni & Yuvraj Singh, as they may have played their last here.

A disappointing end to India's bid to retain the trophy, but a fantastic win for Pakistan. Congratulations !!!

PS - For Indian fans, some consolation to derive, India thrashed Pakistan 7-1 in the Hockey World League semi finals, today evening, one of their biggest victories, & in badminton, Srikant Kadambi won the Indonesian Open 21-11, 21-19. So two huge victories against one major loss - though the loss in cricket hurts the most probably !!!