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Champions Trophy final. India v Pakistan. Mohammad Amir on fire

George Dobell
George Dobell
19-Feb-2018
Rohit Sharma was trapped leg before for a duck by Mohammad Amir, India v Pakistan, Final, Champions Trophy 2017, The Oval, London, June 18, 2017

Rohit Sharma: not quite a hitman against Amir  •  Getty Images

Sure, the figures may look unremarkable. Sure, dozens of people claimed bigger hauls, and yes, on three occasions in 2017 alone, it took bowlers only three deliveries to claim as many wickets. But it's the context that matters here. This was (arguably, at least) the biggest ODI of the year. It was the final of a global tournament between two old adversaries. The world was watching. And it is performances in such situations that define careers.
The odds were stacked against Pakistan. Ranked No. 8 in the world, their squad contained three men - Fakhar Zaman, Rumman Raees and Faheem Ashraf - who made their ODI debuts during the tournament, and a teenage legspinner. So nervous were they about securing their place in the event, they pulled out of a tri-series in Zimbabwe that took place a couple of weeks before qualification was finalised.
Not only had India thrashed them by 124 runs earlier in the tournament, they had won 13 of the 15 matches between the sides in ODI global events, including the last seven such encounters.
Furthermore, India's top three were in sparkling form. Shikhar Dhawan finished the tournament as the leading run scorer, with his opening partner, Rohit Sharma, just behind. Virat Kohli, at No. 3, averaged over 100 in the competition and had long since developed a reputation as one of the best - perhaps the best - ODI batsman in history.
But Amir accounted for all three of them in his opening spell. And by doing so, he effectively settled the match. Bowling with pace - he touched 90mph at times - control and skill, he threatened both edges of the bat and showed that he had the big-match temperament to complement his undoubted talent.
He had, up until that point, experienced an unremarkable tournament. He had claimed just two wickets and missed the semi-final due to a back spasm. But after swinging one back in to trap Rohit leg before, he drew edges from successive deliveries to Kohli - the first was dropped, the second was held - before Dhawan's attempt to run one down to third man was defeated by a perfectly directed cross-seamer that bounced a little more than anticipated and took the edge.
On the biggest occasion, Amir had dismissed the best players in a spell that went a long way to defining the outcome of the match.

Key moment

When Kohli was dropped at slip - Azhar Ali was unable to cling on after a fine delivery from Amir demanded a stroke, bounced a little more than expected and took the edge - it appeared Pakistan might have made a fatal error. This was, after all, a man who had proved himself one of the best chasers in the history of the game. A man who came into the match averaging 253 in the tournament (he had been dismissed just once). A man against whom it was fiendishly difficult to create even one chance. But with his next delivery, Amir produced another false shot, when Kohli, attempting to flick one through midwicket, was only able to push a leading edge to point. Pakistan's celebrations spoke volumes for the importance of the wicket and the relief that they - and Azhar in particular - felt at knowing the let-off was not going to cost them.

The numbers

6.33 Rohit Sharma's average against Mohammad Amir in international cricket at the end of the Champions Trophy. Across formats, Rohit has scored 19 runs and been dismissed three times by Amir in two T20Is and one ODI.
4 The number of times Pakistan bowlers have won the ESPNcricinfo ODI bowling award. Shahid Afridi (2009 and 2013) and Umar Gul (2010) had won previously. No nation has won more often, though Sri Lankan bowlers have also won it four times.
81.4 The percentage of India's runs scored by their top three in the Champions Trophy going into the final. Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli had scored 874 runs between them going into the match, with averages of 79.25, 101.33 and 253 respectively.

What they said

"We've been through his past before but what I do know is that Amir is a big-match player. When the game is on the line, and the bigger the game, the more he performs, and he showed that today on the biggest stage."
- Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur
"Mohammad Amir reminded me of my days."
- Former Pakistan bowler Wasim Akram

The closest contenders

Rashid Khan, 7 for 18 vs West Indies, first ODI, St Lucia
The 18-year-old legspinner claimed the fourth-best figures in ODI history, to help Afghanistan to their first ODI victory against a Full Member side other than Zimbabwe or Bangladesh.
Trent Boult, 6 for 33 vs Australia, third ODI, Hamilton
Boult's career-best figures (at the time, anyway) helped New Zealand clinch a series victory against arch-rivals Australia.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo