Fakhar Zaman became the 1st Pakistani to score a hundred in ICC ODI event final © Getty Images
Fakhar Zaman became the 1st Pakistani to score a hundred in ICC ODI event final © Getty Images

Fakhar Zaman had averaged 53 in his maiden First-Class season. That was four seasons back, and he was 22 at that stage. Remember, this was Pakistan, where super-talents arrive and are disposed of almost every other series. But they had never considered Fakhar. He was always there, but nobody had somehow heard of him. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs Pakistan, ICC Champions Trophy 2017 – Final at The Oval

In hindsight, it was probably a good thing — given how the commentators keep on making hash-ups of his first name in the most ridiculously obscene way possible.

He was so obscure that when they picked him for the Champions Trophy news sites had problems to find his headshot. It was expected to be little more than a “learning experience” (the official name for “paid trip”) for him.

Then Pakistan collapsed against India. They dropped Ahmed Shehzad. And Fakhar Zaman got an ODI cap. Three matches later his career tally read 138 runs at 46 at a strike rate of 118. They were already referring to him as “next big thing” (the Pakistani version of which is “PCB will drop you without a reason”).

From Morne Morkel to Lasith Malinga to Mark Wood, he had dominated them all. However, he had still not conquered that other discipline of bowlers — two men who had routed one opposition after another throughout the Indian winter: the Indian spinners, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin.

Fakhar was recalled after technology revealed that Jasprit Bumrah had overstepped. Virat Kohli got Ashwin to bowl in the eighth over. Ashwin’s first two overs passed by without much interference from Fakhar; then came a boundary, off his legs, but that was off a loose ball. Fakhar probably held the upper hand, but not by much.

Ashwin’s first four overs passed without much confrontation between the two. Then Jadeja replaced him. His first outstanding shot came when he stepped out — dared to step out — against that trademark flat trajectory; the ball raced to the long-on fence.

Then he exploded. Jadeja fired in a dart on the stumps, the kind of delivery that had hurried on to batsmen, trapping them in front or hitting timber. It was not short enough to cut, but Fakhar did.

Take a moment to figure this out. This was Pakistan’s first final in an ICC ODI tournament since 1999. This was an India vs Pakistan encounter. This was a man, pulled out of obscurity, playing his fourth ODI. Jadeja, among the most dangerous of spinners out there, had speared a good-length ball. Fakhar had committed himself to the back-foot.

And yet he cut it. The power took the ball to the fence. And four balls later he cut again, Yuvraj Singh let one slip, and he got four more.

That broke the shackles. He lost Azhar Ali, but he backed himself to loft Jadeja — who had held one back — over the long-on. Such was his footwork that it seemed that he had reached the spot five minutes too soon.

What would Jadeja do? Obviously, bowl flat — and bowl flat he did. Out came the glide, once again to the right of point. Whatever was left of Jadeja came off was undone off last ball, when Fakhar dispatched him over cover.

But hey, there was still Ashwin to be won. Ashwin was not the same. He tossed them up. He varied flight. He did not tie them down and wear batsmen out: he deceived them.

Ashwin saw Fakhar step out. He was too experienced. He held that one back. He bowled it wide. Fakhar had committed himself. He was in no position to play that. Ashwin had him stumped — or had he?

Fakhar stretched himself. The bat was near-horizontal when it made contact. It was slower, which meant that every bit of power had to come from Fakhar’s arms — which made the straight six even more unbelievable. Then came a cover-drive for three and a deft late cut for four.

He kept attacking. He was beaten by flight, but by some sorcery he kept playing those horizontal-batted on-drives and sweeps.

Fakhar scored 45 off 33 balls from Ashwin and 33 off 23 from Jadeja. That amounted to 78 runs from 56 balls against the Indian spinners. Remember, this was scored almost entirely in those middle overs — the 15th to the 43rd.

Fakhar scored 106 from 114 balls. Take Hardik Pandya away, and he had outscored ten Indian batsmen and extras put together on his own.

Cricket may well step aside to make way for Fakhar Zaman. All that is left for him to conquer the world is bypassing the labyrinthine depths of the Pakistan cricket system that has consumed one talent after another.