Pakistan will play their first ever final in ICC Champions Trophy © Getty Images
Pakistan will play their first ever final in ICC Champions Trophy © Getty Images

Before this contest, Pakistan had never met England in ICC Champions Trophy. Before this contest, Pakistan had never registered a 100-run stand for the first wicket in ICC Champions Trophy. Before this contest, Pakistan had never waltzed to the final of ICC Champions Trophy. But then, it is Pakistan, after all, a team renowned for pulling off the improbable, 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. At Cardiff, Pakistan edged out England in all the departments to clinch an 8-wicket win, qualifying for their first ever Champions Trophy final. Full cricket scorecard: England vs Pakistan

Pakistan were without pace spearhead Mohammad Aamer. His injury made way for debutant Rumman Raees. Meanwhile, Jonny Bairstow was drafted in for the struggling Jason Roy. Both replacements, however, placed their respective teams in command.

Becoming only the sixth player to debut in a Champions Trophy knockout, Raees had Alex Hales caught in the off. Pakistan had laid out a plan for him: Junaid Khan would hunt for wicket, while Raees would stick to basics. It worked well; Hales had to step out to burst the bubble Pakistan had trapped him in.

Bairstow got a fluent 43. However, he played a rash shot off the 57th ball he faced. Hasan Ali, who had taken 3 wickets in each of Pakistan’s previous two victories, made Bairstow play a short ball; Bairstow holed out at deep square-leg.

Sarfraz Ahmed had designed a well-paved roadmap for his team. In 18 overs he used as many as six bowlers. He had his men in the right positions. Above all, he made the right calls at the right moment. Let alone that, he took 3 catches and induced a run out.

Joe Root fell 4 short of this third 50-plus score of this tournament. Eoin Morgan became only the third Englishman (we can call him one now, I guess) to complete 5,000 runs in ODIs, but could manage only 33. Ben Stokes, their MVP, accumulated 34 off 64 without a single boundary.

Pakistan strangled the life out of the Englishmen to the extent they did not score one four after 37.5 overs. To autopsy further, England scored 118 for 2 in the first 25 overs including 10 fours and 93 for 8 in the remaining 24.5 overs including 5 fours.

It was not a smooth journey for Pakistan, though. The only bumps in the road were the two dropped catches of Bairstow, but those were tough chances that Azhar Ali and Babar Azam gave their all to pouch them. However, Pakistan were simultaneously making amends by stopping certain boundaries in the deep. Moreover, they induced two run outs, a trait Pakistan have been forever struggling to master. In the process, Pakistan have taken 19 catches in the tournament, only second to England in the tournament.

Pakistan were as brilliant with the ball as they were against South Africa and Sri Lanka: Hasan ended up bagging his third consecutive three-wicket haul, while Junaid and Rumman picked up two wickets each.

A team that had plundered over 300 twice in the tournament were skittled out for 211, courtesy a disciplined Pakistan (an oxymoron, is it?). There was not a maiden bowled, but Pakistan thrived on dot balls.

Azhar Ali and Fakhar made a mockery of the chase. Leaving nothing to chance, they added 118 for the first wicket. Fakhar scored his consecutive half-century and Azhar Ali a resolute 76.

The English bowlers had no answers to Pakistan’s counterattack. They came. They bowled. They strayed. They leaked runs. They gave away an easy victory. Nothing, absolutely nothing worked for England.

There was a variable bounce when England batted, but in the second innings it looked like a typical Multan wicket that Pakistan usually feast on. Boundaries came in abundance. They had no trouble running between the wickets. If anything, Pakistan dented England’s spirits.

The only respite came when Adil Rashid removed Fakhar, but in came Babar and emulated his fallen comrade. The loose cannon that England were that they had no appetite for victory whatsoever.

This is the same Pakistan that India had obliterated 10 days ago at Edgbaston. This is the same Pakistan who had entered the tournament as No. 8 team in ICC ODI Rankings. This Pakistan now will play their first ever final, against India or Bangladesh.

Brief scores:

England 211 in 49.5 overs (Jonny Bairstow 43, Joe Root 46; Hasan Ali 3 for 35, Junaid Khan 2 for 42) lost to Pakistan 215 for 2 in 37.1 overs (Azhar Ali 76, Fakhar Zaman 57; Jake Ball 1 for 37) by 8 wickets.

Full scorecard