CT 2017, England v Pakistan, 1st Semifinal, Review: Pakistan seal berth in finals by an emphatic win against England

CT 2017, England v Pakistan, 1st Semifinal, Review: Pakistan seal berth in finals by an emphatic win against England

Pakistan reached the finals of the Champions Trophy after ridiculing favourites England in a lopsided encounter at Cardiff.

 

Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez of Pakistan. (Photo by Philip Brown/Getty Images)

Pakistan’s road to the finals is nothing short of a fairytale. They were down and out after losing to India in their first group game. They played like cornered tigers to come back and win three straight games to seal a spot in the finals of the Champions Trophy for the first time ever. Sarfaraz led his troops well in the big game as his side emerged victorious against red hot favourites England at the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff.

People usually don’t associate the word ‘clinical’ with Pakistan. They were, though, as clinical as one could ever be against the hosts in the semifinals. As many as 77 balls remained in the innings when Pakistan knocked the runs off with 8 wickets in hand. Sarfaraz called right at the toss and put England in. Mohammad Amir wasn’t selected as he picked up an injury which was not the best news for Pakistan fans. He was replaced by Rumman Raees, who impressed everyone with his cutters to return with 2/44 on his ODI debut. Junaid went wicketless in his first spell as Sarfaraz fell back to Imad Wasim, who he trusts a lot. Raees got the early wicket of Alex Hales – a shot of desperation as he wanted to clear the infield but only managed to find the cover fielder.

England were the hot favourites to win this game but didn’t bat as well as they would have liked. They lost patience with Jason Roy, who had a horrendous run of form and replaced him with Jonny Bairstow, who made a sedate 43. After his departure, it was left to Morgan and Root to carry the innings till the 40th over. This is where Pakistan has done well in the last three games. Root had made a frill-free 46 before he edged Shadab Khan’s leg-spin to Sarfaraz. Stokes joined his skipper but run scoring was very difficult as Sarfraz had his pacers back on for a second spell.

England stutter in middle overs

England’s innings careened from thereafter. In an attempt to break free, Morgan stepped out but could only edge the attempted big booming drive to the keeper, almost identical to his dismissal against New Zealand last week. Junaid Khan rolled his magic as he sent Buttler and Ali back in space of 26 balls to give his side a vice-like grip on the game. At 162/6, England were in danger of getting bowled out before the allotted 50 overs. Stokes adopted a pragmatic approach of weathering the storm and biding time. After losing Rashid to a run-out, Stokes wanted to break the shackles but was out to Hasan Ali, who won his second Man of the Match of the tournament for his 3/35. England innings was over one ball short of the 50 over mark, as they could muster to only 211.

Pakistan clinical in their chase

All hopes of an England comeback was doused by a solid stand by the openers: Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali. They did not want to get bogged down by the occasion and played their natural games. Zaman’s spry innings was the need of the hour as low scoring chases can get tricky in the middle overs. He completed his 2nd ODI fifty, also consecutive, in the 17th over off just 49 balls. The stand out shot in his innings was his first over six – a top edge attempted hook that sailed over the keeper – which also gave an insight into the mindset of the Pakistan side. They meant business and wanted to be professional in a must-win game. Azhar’s innings was sedate, but by no means any less effective, as he took his time early on and wanted to anchor the chase. He completed his half-century in 68 balls with the help of three fours and a six. Zaman was out for 57 – stumped off a wrong one by Rashid – but he did his job as an opener. Babar Azam arrived and immediately got busy at the crease. Babar and Azhar added 55 runs for the 2nd wicket after 118 were added by the openers. Azhar fell to a soft dismissal – a slower bouncer which the opener chopped back to his stumps – for a fine 76 which deserved the standing applause he got when he walked off.

Mohammad Hafeez was unusually very positive and first pillaged singles with Babar. He then hit two mighty sixes and 3 fours to read the last rites of the game. The 35-year old remained calm and attacked on anything lose to remain unbeaten on 31 as young Babar helped himself to 38*.

Brief Scores:

England – 211 all out in 49.5 overs (Joe Root 46, Ben Stokes 34, Hasan Ali 3/35, Junaid Khan 2/42).

Pakistan – 215 for 2 in 37.1 overs (Azhar Ali 76, Fakhar Zaman 57, Babar Azam 38*, Jake Ball 1/37)