Pakistan Champions Trophy victory a triumph for spontaneity

Sarfraz Ahmed's team go from whipping boys to victors in space of two weeks

Mohammad Amir Pakistan Virat Kohli India Champions Trophy
Mohammad Amir of Pakistan celebrates the crucial wicket of Indian captain Virat Kohli during the Champions Trophy final
(Image credit: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Pakistan barely scraped into the Champions Trophy as the eighth-best one-day team in the world, but they demolished their bitter rivals India at The Oval on Sunday to win the entire tournament and stun cricket.

It was a triumphant and dazzling turnaround for Sarfraz Ahmed's team, who were humbled by the same opposition earlier in the tournament only came into their own as the event progressed.

Indeed, they were unrecognisable from the rabble that began the campaign with a 124-run loss to India.

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Rookie opener Fakhar Zaman smashed 114 runs in an imposing total of 338 and Pakistan's bowlers reduced India to 72-6 before bowling them out for 158 to win by a mammoth 180 runs.

"What Pakistan have pulled off here is some diamond-studded, galactic-scale nonsense," says Andrew Fidel Fernando of Cricinfo.

"They have not just defied logic, they have spat in logic's face, questioned the moral inclinations of its parents, kicked it in the shins, kneed it in the groin, strangled it unconscious, then shoved it into the mud and set its trousers on fire."

His surprise is by no means isolated. "It has been a quite remarkable turnaround," says Steve James of The Times. "In an age where sport has become ever more scientific, with detailed preparation a spoken necessity, this was an uplifting triumph for spontaneity, unbridled skill and excited exuberance.

"This Pakistan side simply grew under pressure when others, including England, wilted. They are worthy champions and it epitomises their success that, a couple of weeks ago, barely anyone had heard of their centurion and man of the match Fakhar Zaman."

It was indeed a rare triumph for talent and verve over blueprints and long-term planning, says Barney Ronay of The Guardian.

"If Imran Khan’s world champions [in 1992] were cornered tigers this Pakistan team are more a bunch of Manhattan alley cats, an agreeably feisty mix of strays, old hands and kittenish brio, transformed into champions in the last two weeks by a peculiar sporting alchemy.

"There is no easy lesson to be drawn from Pakistan’s triumph, no blueprint to be replicated; just a victory for talent, moments seized, and a team balanced and bonded with rare skill on the hoof."

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