© Getty Images
© Getty Images

All this had not happened had Thisara Perera held on to an absolute dolly off Sarfraz Ahmed, or say had Seekkuge Prasanna timed his jump to given yet another reprieve to Sarfraz. In other words, Pakistan may not have won their first ever ICC Champions Trophy title had luck betrayed them.

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Pakistan had dropped Sachin Tendulkar as many as 4 times in the semi-final of World Cup 2011. Before that, Abdul Razzaq had dropped him, off Wasim Akram, at mid-on in 2003. India have had their share of luck against Pakistan in ICC tournaments, if truth be told. And these are only a few of the many anecdotes favouring India. However, the tides turned and so spectacularly in ICC Champions Trophy 2017.

Jasprit Bumrah had Fakhar Zaman caught behind. MS Dhoni threw the ball in jubilation, Bumrah had his hands up celebrating Pakistan’s first blood, Umpire Richard Kettleborough had his right-hand sideways signalling no-ball, the decibel levels from the Indian fans significantly dropped, and thus began India’s downfall…

Zaman’s every miscued shot fell in no man’s land. His edges flew over slips. A few missed the stumps by a whisker. Let alone that, one of Mohammad Hafeez’s edges hit the stumps but the bails refused to fall.

What had Pakistan done? How were things falling so generously in place for them?

That said, one cannot disregard the fact that Pakistan were so brilliant otherwise that India were reduced to nothingness.

Fakhar, remaining unhindered, blasted his maiden hundred. Azhar, usually known for pursuing conventional strokes, played attacking brand of cricket, and so did Hafeez and how. Azhar then dropped Virat Kohli at first-slip, but Mohammad Aamer removed him the very next ball. Aamer, who had only 2 wickets in the tournament before this, sent packing Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, the top two run-getters, as well.

Imad Wasim timely dived forward to pull off a stunner, ending Dhoni’s stay on a mere 4. Shadab Khan, an 18-year-old leg-spinner, trapped the veteran Yuvraj Singh in front. Although there was a 76-run resilience from Hardik Pandya, Pakistan ran him out before they run out the luck potion they were surviving on and emerged triumphant.

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Of course, they were lucky and Sri Lanka were sloppy against them, but Sarfraz did not take anything for granted.

All this had not happened had Sarfraz given up on his unpredictable team, so much so that you take an umbrella and not a single drop of rain falls from the sky, and then you decide not to carry it and a record for the highest rainfall is registered.

Let us review further by rating each player in CricketCountry‘s section called ‘Marks out of 10′.

Fakhar Zaman (4 matches | 252 runs at 63 | 2 x 50 | 1 x 100): 10/10

Why would he not be a 10-pointer? He scored consecutive fifties, against Sri Lanka and England. Before that he had laid a strong foundation with his brisk 31.

Against India, in the final, one may not have expected an innings of such substance, in only his 4th international ODI, at such occasion.

He was not a part of 124-run drubbing against India, and no one had heard of his abilities. To have someone dashing to open with Azhar, Pakistan replaced Ahmed Shehzad with Zaman and Pakistan attained a new high.

He also finished as the highest run-scorer for Pakistan.

Azhar Ali (5 matches | 228 runs at 45.6 | 3 x 50): 8/10

Azhar can be mind-numbingly slow with his strike rate. Neither does he take aerial route nor does he play ugly heaves. He rather accumulates runs sticking to his basics. In the semi-final, he hit the ball so high that the cameraman could not pan when it fell off the orbit. In the final, he was batting at a strike rate higher than Zaman’s, along with whom he added consecutive 100-plus stands. He gets extra points for playing out of his comfort zone.

Babar Azam (5 matches | 133 runs at 44.33): 7/10

Babar scored two unbeaten scores of 31 and 38, in chases against South Africa and England. In the final, he played a resolute 46. He gets extra marks for his stylish strokeplay as well as looking a bit like Umar Akmal: his first cousin.

Shoaib Malik (5 matches | 54 runs at 18): 4/10

Barring his unbeaten 16 in a rain-affected match against South Africa, Malik was never seen in his elements. In addition, Sarfraz did not use his part-time bowling services. However, his presence must have boosted this young team’s morale.

Mohammad Hafeez (5 matches | 148 runs at 49.33 | 1 x 50): 6/10

Hafeez saved his best for the last. His 37-ball 57 helped Pakistan score past 300 in the final. From Ravichandran Ashwin to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, he peppered boundaries against all, especially in the death overs.

He also took a solitary wicket of Quinton de Kock.

Sarfraz Ahmed (5 matches | 76 runs at 76 | 1 x 50): 10/10

We already spoke of the dropped catches, the innings in which he added 75 for the eighth wicket with Mohammad Aamer when Pakistan were stuttering at 162 for 7. It was his unbeaten 61 that propelled Pakistan to new highs. Above all, his was brilliant at the helm. He used as many as 6 bowlers against England, making sure the home team does not settle. He used all his ammunitions to good effect and at critical juncture. And his wicketkeeping was good as any.

Imad Wasim (5 matches | 29 runs | 1 wicket): 5.5/10

Imad had an ordinary start to the tournament, when the Indian batsmen went after him. But he made a remarkable comeback, conceding not a single boundary during his spell of 8-0-20-2 against South Africa. He was economical against Sri Lanka as well and with the bat, he was decent, bludgeoning 25 in the final. Otherwise, he did not get to bat much.

Mohammad Aamer (4 matches | 5 wickets | 37 runs): 7/10

Aamer dismissed Kohli, Rohit, and Dhawan in the final. Had he not left the Indian top-order aghast with pace and swing, India would have run away with the chase.

Against Sri Lanka, in a must-win contest, he stitched that stand with Sarfraz.

Shadab Khan (4 matches | 4 wickets): 6/10

He knew right away when the ball struck Yuvraj’s pad first and then bat. He confidently asked Sarfraz, and the DRS suggested that Yuvraj was plumb. He gets an extra mark for that. Otherwise, he did his bit being the only full-time spinner amidst Pakistan’s ferocious pace attack.

Hasan Ali (5 matches | 13 wickets at 14.69): 10/10

There was a reason Hasan was awarded Man of the Series. He got the better of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Dhoni, among others. He took a wicket every time he was handed the ball, eventually ending as the highest wicket-taker.

Junaid Khan (4 matches | 8 wickets at 19.37): 8/10

Aamer and Hasan hogged most limelight, but Junaid was consistently taking wickets, especially in the middle overs when the opposition were eying a big total.

Rumman Raees (1 match | 9-0-44-2): 10/10

Raees replaced the injured Aamer in the semi-final against England. He helped his team draw first blood, dismissing Alex Hales. He maybe unlike any stylish, swaggering Pakistan pacer, but his disciplined bowling helped Pakistan keep the batting-heavy England at bay. He finished with figures of 2 for 44. He did nothing wrong, Pakistan had to play Aamer when he was in the best of his fitness.

Farheem Ashraf (1 match | 6.2-0-37-2): 7/10

He was on the expensive side in the only game he played, but he dismissed Dinesh Chandimal for duck.

Wahab Riaz (1 match | 8.4-0-87-0): 0.5/10

India smashed him to pulp in the first game. Had he anyway not picked up an injury, he would have been benched.

Ahmed Shehzad (1 match | 12 runs): 0.5/10

That tells everything.

Haris Sohail did not get a game.

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Pakistan, the last-ranked team when the eight-team tournament started, rose above critics and finished first. For a nation that does not get to witness their heroes play on their very own soil, this was a special, very special win…