LONDON — Pakistan celebrated one of its biggest cricket victories on June 18, defeating arch-rival India in the Champions Trophy final in London.
Back home, streets were deserted in the federal capital Islamabad and Rawalpindi — and in big cities across the country — as fans watched Pakistan thrash defending champion India by 180 runs at The Oval.
“Congratulations to Team Pakistan on their great performance in winning #CT17 And how wonderful to watch Fakhar’s raw talent in action,” Pakistan cricket great Imran Khan tweeted.
Left-hander Fakhar Zaman, playing in only his fourth ODI, smashed 114 off 106 balls and top-scored in Pakistan’s 338-4, before India crumbled to 158 all out.
Zaman couldn’t resist the length ball outside off stump, so he poked at it and only nicked it. He heard the ball pouched behind him and knew he was dismissed before he’d really got started in the biggest cricket match of his life.
Out for 3 in the fourth over of the Champions Trophy final, he walked away from the celebrating Indians then stopped to watch the replay on the video screen at The Oval.
The replay showed medium-pacer Jasprit Bumrah overstepped. A no ball.
Zaman got another life, and the Pakistan opener embraced it.
Not wanting to let India know he was rattled, he hit two boundaries quickly, plus a third off his helmet, and he was on his way. He ran out his fellow opener Azhar Ali while he was ball-watching after they’d made a record 128 but he shrugged that off too to earn his maiden century for Pakistan, in only his fourth one-day international, 11 days after his debut.
He was finally out in the 34th over, scoring 114 off 106 balls, including 12 boundaries and three sixes.
His century set up Pakistan’s massive total of 338-4, and they went on to dismiss India for 158. Zaman even got in some spin bowling, stepping in when an injured Imad Wasim couldn’t finish the 20th over.
Zaman’s figures of 3.3-0-25-0 were ruined only by Hardik Pandya hitting two consecutive sixes.
Zaman was named man of the match.
Even India captain Virat Kohli was impressed.
“A guy like Zaman, when players like that get going on their day, it becomes real difficult to stop them because I think 80 percent of his shots were high-risk and they were all coming off,” Kohli said. “Sometimes you have to sit and say, ‘The guy is good enough on the day to tackle anything.’ You can only do so much.”
The last time Pakistan won a major 50-over ICC tournament was also during Ramadan, when Khan led his team over England in the 1992 final at Melbourne, Australia.
“Our team has presented us with a best gift in the holy fasting month of Ramadan,” said Shabbir Ali Asghar, a 14-year-old student, as he watched the final with friends on television in Rawalpindi.
As soon as the sun set and people broke their religious fast, large numbers came out to watch Pakistan seamers squeezing India in its run-chase.
Special arrangements were made to broadcast the final live in community halls, cinemas and parks.
“Once we put up a strong total, I was more than million percent sure India can’t beat us today,” said Zahra Mehmood, a housewife.
It was a remarkable turnaround of form for Pakistan, ranked No. 8 in the eight-team tournament.
India handed Pakistan a 124-run defeat in the first group match before Pakistan defeated South Africa, Sri Lanka and then thrashed England in the semifinals to qualify for its first ever Champions Trophy final.
“Today’s win shows that no one is favorite when it comes to India v Pakistan match in international cricket,” said a beaming Mohammad Ashraf, who distributed sweets among people on a street in Rawalpindi.
Not many had backed Pakistan to go beyond the group stage in the Champions Trophy, but the team led by Sarfraz Ahmed enjoyed an extraordinary revival after its disastrous opener.
“After the first game I said there is a big gap between Ind & Pak these days. The gap remained in this match. Just the other way round.??” tweeted commentator Sanjay Manjrekar, a former India test cricketer.