Pakistan thrashed England by eight wickets in the first semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy to be the first side to qualify for the final of the eight-team tournament. Starting the tournament as the least favourites to make it to the next round, the side, often tagged as ‘unpredictable’, defeated the Eoin Morgan-led side that qualified for this contest undefeated.
Pakistan brought in a 25-five-year old Rumman Raees to replace Mohammad Amir, suffering from a back spasm, and the debutant struck early on in the game. Bowling with the new ball in the semi-final, the medium-pacer removed Alex Hales in the sixth over. The move to use Raees as an attacking option raised eyebrows as he had been used as a second change bowler in his last List-A match.
It wouldn’t be wrong to assume that Johnny Bairstow might have thought about buying a lottery ticket on the day he was brought in to open the English innings in place of Jason Roy. The right-handed batsman had two reprieves in his 57-ball 43. He was dropped by Azhar Ali in the 10th over off Raees’ bowling at short mid-wicket and again in the 16th over in the slips off Shadab Khan. He was also adjudged against LBW in the first over when Junaid Khan’s ball nipped back into him. When Pakistan went for the review, the exhausted their only chance to no avail due to Umpire’s call being in England’s favour.
England were 162 for five when Junaid Khan hurled in a length delivery at Moeen Ali in the 38th over. With the pressure of a low score on the board mounting, Ali on 11 from 13 balls mis-pulled the ball to the square-leg region. Fakhar Zaman rushed towards the region and grabbed a stunning catch.
Pakistan entered the tournament as the most fragile batting lineup. But things seem to be working out for them since Fakhar Zaman made his debut against South Africa last Wednesday. Azhar Ali and Zaman brought Pakistan’s first 100-run opening partnership in the 18th over when the two were batting at 41 and 51. They were also the first non-Indian openers to have a first-wicket century stand in the Champions Trophy since 2009.