Pakistan v India, Champions Trophy 2017, final, The Oval June 18, 2017

Fakhar Zaman rewarded for his risk

After scoring two half-centuries in his last two innings in the Champions Trophy, the Pakistan opener rose to the occasion of the final by making his maiden ODI hundred
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Star turn

Pakistan are at their best when they play with flair. Remember when their fast bowlers would carve through batting line-ups and their openers batted with elegance and aggression? Their bowling prowess has never gone away. Almost all their problems in the recent past have stemmed from their inability to match modern batting standards. Their Champions Trophy opener, against India, was no different. Then, Fakhar Zaman made his debut and Pakistan's cricket changed again.

Cuts, drives, pulls, heck even reverse sweeps, Zaman has them all. After a nervy beginning in the final - it was the biggest game of his life after all - Zaman's belligerence showed what Pakistan missed earlier. R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, the world's top Test bowlers, were treated with disdain.

For someone so attuned to an attacking approach, it seemed like a false shot wasn't far away. Where was the mis-hit pull and the badly-timed lofted drive that characterised Pakistan's unfamiliarity with offense in the past year? South Africa, England and India are still looking. Zaman's hundred, a landmark he reached with a fearless sweep off a straight ball, led Pakistan to their best batting performance of the decade, allowing their bowlers to enjoy the rare absence of pressure.

The wow moment

Zaman's maiden ton wasn't flawless. He made two errors, the first a leaden-footed poke at Jasprit Bumrah in the fourth over. His outside edge was taken, but Bumrah had overstepped. His second mistake was a misjudgment of a single Azhar Ali called for in the 23rd over. He didn't respond and Azhar was run-out. India were breathing again.

Then, Zaman picked up Jadeja by the neck and hammered him for two fours and a six in the 27th over. In the next over, he stepped out and cross-batted Ashwin for 14 runs. These weren't strokes played on the merit of the ball, they were calculated risks, even offering India a way back in if he failed. Eventually, it came down to improvisation and execution, to which coach Mickey Arthur will credit Zaman two green ticks.

Stats that matter

  • Zaman's 114 was the highest score by a Pakistan batsman in a final of a World Cup or Champions Trophy

  • Azhar Ali and Zaman's 128-run stand was the highest first-wicket partnership against India at an ICC event

  • Zaman scored 51 off his 114 runs between long on and square leg

What they said

"When guys like Zaman gets going, he plays unorthodox shots, they're really difficult to stop. Eighty percent of his shots were high risk and they were all coming off. You can only do so much as a bowler and a captain when that is happening. Sometimes you've to sit and say the guy is good enough on the day to tackle everything. The controllables become very little when people are going well like that.."
Virat Kohli on why it was hard to stop the Pakistan opener

"I was lucky with the no-ball. It's a final against India, so I just tried to enjoy the innings. I wasn't feeling well yesterday, I was thinking I wouldn't be able to play but the physio said I would be fine in the morning."
Fakhar Zaman after his maiden century

Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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  • cricfan16287317 on June 19, 2017, 11:58 GMT

    Completely agreed with @TTTHETRUTH. I have been being disgusted with this word 'Lucky' since long when a batsman is decalared NOT OUT against a no ball under such circumstances. You have explained well.

  • ttthetruth on June 19, 2017, 10:09 GMT

    Could you please pass this message to the ignorant commentators and analysts that "No ball" is an illegal all and nobody gets out of a no-ball. It wasn't a drop catch that he got lucky. If not "No-ball" Bumrah might have pitched it an inch short and could have been hit for four.Don't spoil the incredible 100 by Fakhar. I think Sarfaraz missed a chance of getting India out for less than 100. He allowed Pandiya to play against Shadab and Fakhar. He should have brought Amir, Junaid or Hassan.

  • krishna_cricketfan on June 19, 2017, 8:21 GMT

    My MoM for the Pak-SL match would be Zaman. That quick fire 50, made the chase easy with RR under control. That is Sehwag style innings that took the energy out of the SL bowlers.

  • krishna_cricketfan on June 19, 2017, 8:17 GMT

    Very good batting by Azhar and Zaman. As for the NO-BALL, is not luck at all. It is because of the overstepping batsman gets less time to react and get out. So nothing to take away from Zaman's innings by citing the no ball. Azhar is solid always. Class batsman. He should be around long time.

  • wpbus13 on June 19, 2017, 6:18 GMT

    Zaman was quite a revelation, he needs to work on the short pitched deliveries, a couple of times he wore it on the helmet. I was impressed though by the way he played the spinners. He used his feet remarkably well and was able to give himself room for anything short. He could be considered unorthodox but he is blessed with tremendous raw talent.

  • murali_knair on June 19, 2017, 5:46 GMT

    The day India changed the winning combination just to include Ashwin in the Champion Trophy. Ashwin is a fine test bowler, but not a one day bolwer. Umesh Yadav was doing well and his inclusion could have made a difference. India had Mohmmed Shammi and he could have proved a real threat especially when Fakhar was playing unorthodox shots. Definitely India lost the pace and movement of Shammi which made all the difference. Kohli should also learn one thing that team should be selected keeping in mind the victory and not seniority or past fame. Now he should have understood the importance of discipline which Kumble has been insisting and he has been vary about.

  • anver777 on June 19, 2017, 5:06 GMT

    An memorable Ramazan Gift for Fakhar Zaman !!! His raw talent proved to much for Kohli & co... better luck next time Kohli !!

  • fkhawaja on June 19, 2017, 3:13 GMT

    One of the factors leading to indias defeat was their defensive approach when bowling. They kept trying to contain fakhr and azhar which obviously didnt work. Ashvin was only bpwling on the leg stump and wasnt trying to get them out. India thought they can contain pakistan to around 250 and chase. What they didnt do was take enough wickets.

  • dhanyalraja on June 19, 2017, 3:08 GMT

    One man changing the course of the game, Zaman stood in between india and victory. And Zaman has many more to play.

  • SammySoSo on June 18, 2017, 23:59 GMT

    Pakistan played like the Pakistan of old. They were fearless and the bowling was out of this world. India's fabled batting lineup had no answer to a fire-breathing Amir and Hassan Ali. They had as much venom as Waqar and Wasim in their glory days. Indian batsmen are human after all and on a day when the Pak quicks are raining thunderbolts, few can stand up to them. Good to see Pakistan back at the top. Goes to show that rankings mean little. Any one in the top 10 can beat the top team, on their day. Congratulations Pakistan. U thoroughly deserved this resounding victory. This from a Tiger fan.

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