The Telegraph
Monday , June 19 , 2017

Shock on India, awe on Pakistan

- Gracious in defeat, Kohli points out: It’s cricket

London, June 18: Sunroofs opened, the honking never stopped and hundreds of Pakistan flags took over The Oval and the roads converging towards Waterloo.

It was time to celebrate Pakistan's first global success in the 50-over format in 25 years, with Karachi's Sarfraz Ahmed in a way emulating Imran Khan's momentous win at the MCG.

It was also time to reflect on the way India's awesome batting line-up disintegrated in the wake of aggressive and highly motivated bowling.

The reality is India got pulverised.

If there was shock at India's performance, there was awe at the manner in which Pakistan took to the Champions Trophy final.

The outcome resulted in different emotions, even leading to a scuffle between the India and Pakistan fans at the Sir Jack Hobbs gate, but the law-enforcers intervened to avert anything more ugly.

If Imran and his men came back from the dead, in Australia-New Zealand, the comeback by this Pakistan team was no less phenomenal.

Thrashed by India in the opening match for both teams, Pakistan inflicted an even bigger defeat in the final.

Of course, the Champions Trophy isn't quite a World Cup, but Pakistan qualified as the eighth and last team for the tournament and, this evening, Sarfraz held the trophy.

Sarfraz may never feel better. Less light too, with a massive weight off his shoulders.

By the way, eight years ago, at the same venue, Younis Khan had lifted the 2009 World T20.

While Sarfraz could hardly contain himself, India captain Virat Kohli was gracious despite the margin being an embarrassing (and unbelievable) 180 runs.

"Cricket is played between two teams, so you have to accept losses. You have to accept that the other team outplayed you and showed better skill....

"They showed better composure in pressure situations. Today was our day to lose because the opposition played much better than us," Virat said.

Virat didn't stop there in acknowledging that things just didn't go right for India.

"They made us make mistakes because of the way they were bowling and the way they applied pressure....

"We have no hesitation or shame in admitting that we couldn't play our best game....

"Sometimes, you have to accept and admire the skill of the opposition....

"Personally, it does feel bad, but you have to understand that you can only control so many things," Virat added.

Sarfraz is often like a cat on a hot tin roof, but he's now assured of a place among the legends of Pakistan.

Smart that he is, Sarfraz used the occasion to make the point about Pakistan being deprived of international cricket at home.

Hasan Ali celebrates after dimissing Ravichandran Asgwin at The Oval on Sunday

"I hope all cricket-playing nations will now come to Pakistan," Sarfraz stated, after expecting the victory to be remembered for all time to come.

Barring Zimbabwe, no other country has visited Pakistan after the terror strike on the Sri Lanka team bus in March 2009.

Mickey Arthur, who never had his moment on the global stage while coaching either South Africa or Australia, finally has a glittering addition to his CV.

Will life change? "No, I'll still wake up to a new day, look to prepare for the next challenge, which is the 2019 World Cup.... We came to win and we did," Arthur told The Telegraph.

The toss was won by Virat, who backed his team's strength in chasing and inserted Pakistan.

Nothing wrong there, though many feel it's better to set a target in finals.

Pakistan had more than a solid start, with Azhar Ali and the highly unconventional Fakhar Zaman (a former constable in the Naval Police) putting together 128.

Platform set, MoM Zaman went on to crack 114 with Babar Azam and Mohammed Hafeez, 57 not out, taking Pakistan to a muscle-flexing 338 for four.

Key bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin went for 68 and 70, respectively. That alone says much.

Given India's batting, the target wasn't out of reach, but with the in-form Rohit Sharma and Virat falling within three overs, the match was lost.

Virat, in fact, failed to make capital of a let-off on Mohammed Aamir's delivery before being dismissed on the very next one.

A few words on Aamir (three for 16).... Seven years after the spot-fixing scandal in the Lord's Test, he has redeemed himself on England's soil.

Player of the Tournament and Golden Ball winner Hasan Ali, the quick, took three wickets as well.

Maybe, had Hardik Pandya not been run out at a time he was blazing away, India could have come much closer to the target.

But, perhaps, it was destined that India would get it all wrong on the biggest day of the Champions Trophy.

One consolation: the Golden Bat went to apna Shikhar Dhawan.

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