Specials – Moments from Australia v Bangladesh Test history

  Australia and Bangladesh will be facing each other in whites after more than 11 years when they begin their two-Test series in Dhaka on August 27. The history between them in the longest format is brief – only four matches across two series have been played since 2003. Nevertheless, these Tests have had their share of snippets, not to mention a few stirring performances.

Darwin and Cairns join the Test club

  As part of Cricket Australia’s plan to host off-season matches at unexplored locations, two new venues were welcomed into the Test fold for Australia’s inaugural series against Bangladesh in 2003. The Marrara Oval in Darwin and the Bundaberg Rum Stadium in Cairns became the 89th and 90th Test venues respectively.

  To nobody’s surprise, Australia notched a comfortable 2-0 victory courtesy of resounding innings wins in both games. The gap in both, experience and skill, was evident on the first day of the first Test itself as Bangladesh, led by Khaled Mahmud, were shot out for 97. The win at Darwin was Steve Waugh’s 37th as captain, overhauling Clive Lloyd’s record.

Boof’s beefy blade, Love’s final fling

  Darren ‘Boof’ Lehmann had scored his maiden Test ton, at the age of 33, against the West Indies at Port-of-Spain in April 2003. Three months later, he took a liking to the raw Bangladeshi attack and amassed two more centuries, ending as the series’ highest run-getter. At Darwin, he walked in at 43/2 and scored 110, while at Cairns, he top-scored with a career-best 177 from just 207 balls.

    Opener Shahriar Nafees scored 138 on the first day at Fatullah in 2005-06, as Bangladesh gave a massive scare to Australia (source – AFP/farjana godhuly)

  Also playing in the series for Australia was three-Test-old Martin Love, who, like Lehmann, was an ace batsman in the first-class arena. His outing at Darwin was forgettable as he was castled by Mashrafe Mortaza for a golden duck. However, he made amends with an unbeaten 100 at Cairns, sharing in a fifth-wicket stand of 174 with Lehmann. This would be Love’s final Test innings.

Shahriar Nafees leaves the world champions stunned

  A weary Australian side began their first Test in Bangladesh, in 2005-06, just five days after their series-sweeping win in the third Test in South Africa. It was also the first Test to be played at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah. The opening day belonged to 20-year-old southpaw Shahriar Nafees, who launched into the unsuspecting bowlers with aplomb.

  At lunch, Bangladesh’s score was a scarcely believable 144/1. Nafees, uninhibited and unleashed, added 187 for the second wicket with his captain Habibul Bashar and galloped to a maiden first-class hundred in 131 balls. He was eventually dismissed for 138, lit with 19 fours, a knock that powered Bangladesh to 355/5 at stumps. The great Shane Warne was taken for 112 off 20 wicketless overs.

Gilchrist and Ponting save Australia the blushes

Replying to Bangladesh’s 427 in the first Test at Fatullah in 2005-06, Australia were gasping for breath at 93/6. Less than a year ago, the Tigers had beaten Australia in an ODI, and now, they had reason to feel upbeat about a potentially bigger upset. Adam Gilchrist, batting at six, provided relief to his confounded teammates with a timely 144 that restricted Bangladesh’s lead to 158.

A poor show from the Bangladeshi batsmen in the second innings brought Australia back into the game, but a target of 307 was a challenge on a deteriorating wicket. Captain Ricky Ponting calmly responded to the pressure, keeping left-arm spinner Mohammad Rafique (4/98, 9/160 in the match) at bay and constructing a restrained, unbeaten 118 to steer Australia to a tense three-wicket win.

    Jason Gillespie smiles after his record-breaking double century at Chittagong in 2005-06 (source – gettyimages/cricket.com.au)

Magical MacGill – Bangladesh’s bogeyman

Even though he plied his trade under the shadow of Shane Warne, leg-spinner Stuart MacGill almost always delivered when given the opportunity. Bangladesh’s batsmen would know this well, for MacGill has scalped 33 wickets in four matches against them, 14 more than anyone else in Australia v Bangladesh fixtures. Moreover, he boasts of an average of 15.75 and four five-wicket hauls.

His first assignment against Bangladesh, at Darwin in 2003, saw him pick 7/86, including 5/65 in the second innings. He bettered these in the second Test at Cairns, taking 10/133 (5/77 and 5/56) to be named player of the match and series. In 2005-06, he recorded a career-best return of 8/108 in the first innings at Fatullah, and added eight more from the next three innings in the series.

Dizzy’s sensational vigil enters the record books

  Having broken out of jail in the Fatullah Test, Australia restored normality at Chittagong, winning by an innings and 80 runs to seal the series. The match was notable for one of the most remarkable innings of all time – the only Test double century by a nightwatchman. This honour went to the sprightly paceman Jason Gillespie, in what was to be his last international appearance.

  ‘Dizzy’ came in at number three late on the first day, after his 3/11 had kept Bangladesh to 197. Three days later, on his 31st birthday, he was still in the middle, having doggedly batted nine hours and 34 minutes for 201*, when Australia declared at the fall of Michael Hussey, with whom he put on 320 for the fourth wicket. Before this, Gillespie had never passed 58 in first-class cricket.    

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Who Would Have Thought It – Married v Single at Lord’s

  The olden days of first-class cricket in England were replete with intriguing and bizarre fixtures, such as One-Legged XI v One-Armed XI, Smokers v Non-Smokers and Over 38 v Under 38, to name a few. Among these off-beat encounters were seven matches titled Married v Single, contested between – as the name suggests – teams featuring married and unmarried men respectively.

  There have been mentions of a few Married v Single games played between 1794 and 1815 in Cambridge, but the first instance of a first-class match between the Married and the Single occurred at Lord’s, a three-day match starting from June 1, 1829. William Searle, who played for Kent and Surrey, top-scored with 48 in the Married’s first innings total of 153.

  The Single snatched a narrow lead of three runs on the first innings, after a fine 75 from Herbert Jenner, of Cambridge University and Kent and a future President of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), steered them to 156. No other singleton crossed 20. Jenner was not done yet though, as he took five wickets to help bowl the Married out for 93 in the second innings.

  Faced with a target of 91, the Single capitulated for only 63, thus going down by 27 runs. Besides James Broadbridge, who made 25, none of the batsmen could stand up to the round-arm duo of William Mathews and Frederick Lillywhite, one of the leading cricketers of the pre-Test era and an uncle of James Lillywhite, who represented England in her first Test match in 1876-77.

  July 11, 1831 saw the start of the second Married v Single clash at Lord’s, with the Single exacting revenge in a low-scoring dogfight. Thanks to a five-wicket haul from James Cobbett, the Single were bowled out for 104, the only three-figure total of the game. Edward ‘Ned’ Wenman, a Kent stalwart of yore, then starred for the Single with a fifer of his own as the Married were skittled out for 43.

  The only married gentleman to display valour was Nicholas Felix, who carried his bat for 30*. Frederick Lillywhite gave the Married renewed hope by taking six wickets in the second dig as the Single could manage just 42. Needing 104 for the win, the Married were all out for 81 – Wenman took three wickets to add to his five, not to mention his 35 and 24, both innings-topping scores.

     John Wisden took 12 wickets for the Single against the Married at Lord’s in 1849, playing a pivotal role in his side’s three-wicket win (source – gettyimages/mirror.co.uk) 

  It was not until 1844 that the Married and the Single squared up again, on September 12. This time, the venue was not Lord’s, but Higher Common Ground in Tunbridge Wells, which was hosting its maiden first-class match. Unlike in 1829 and 1831, when the game ended within two days, this made it to the third day. As for the ground, it had its last taste of first-class cricket in 1884.

  Part of the Married XI was the 37-year-old roundarm all-rounder Alfred Mynn, nicknamed ‘Lion of Kent’ and considered to be one of the earliest greats of the game. Incidentally, his elder brother Walter Mynn was opening for the Single. The Married slipped to 49/5 after electing to bat first, before a lower order revival saw them post 134. Kent’s William Hillyer returned with 5/45.

  The Single replied with a poor performance, crashing to 39/6 before being dismissed for 82. Alfred Mynn was the wrecker-in-chief, with figures of 6/34, bowling unchanged with James Dean (3/48). The Married totalled 101 in the second innings to set the Single a target of 154. William Martingell was the pick of the bowlers with 4/31, whilst Hillyer took three to give himself eight in the match.

  The situation was looking bleak for the Single as Mynn and Dean combined to reduce them to 28/4. William Napper and stumper Edward Wenman staged a rescue act, putting on 60 for the fourth wicket. However, the last laugh belonged to the Married as the Single subsided from 105/5 to 144, losing by only nine runs. Dean (5/54) and Mynn (4/65, 10/99 in the match) starred once again.

  The fixture returned to Lord’s for its fourth outing, from June 11, 1849. John Wisden, Sussex’s 23-year-old all-rounder, was among the Singles. He would go on to launch the Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack fifteen years down the line. The Married threw down the gauntlet with a total of 203, courtesy of a third-wicket stand worth 99 between William Clarke (71) and Thomas Box (42).

  Wisden, who bowled underarm, took five wickets. But he contributed little with the bat, getting out for zero and being among the procession of wickets to fall as the Single crumbled from a steady start to 65/6, losing six for 16. George Parr scored 61 from number eight to stretch the eventual total to 180. Frederick Lillywhite, now aged 57, and James Dean shared the ten wickets equally.

  Wisden snared seven wickets, including Mynn for a duck, in the third innings to end with 12 victims in the match. The Married were well placed at 82/2, but could manage only 147. The chase began with a handsome opening stand of 88 between Robert Grimson (76) and William Nicholson, before the score stumbled to 152/7. James Chester kept his cool though, guiding the Single to a three-wicket win.

      The great W.G Grace carried his bat for 189 as the Single beat the Married by an innings and 73 runs at Lord’s in 1871 (source – telegraph.co.uk/alamy)

  The next fixture was played at the Oval, from August 9, 1858, and saw another narrow win for the Single. John Jackson (7/62) helped bowl the Single out for 188, to which the Married, riding on Robert Carpenter’s 81, replied with 221. John Wisden (5/39) took five and so did William Caffyn (5/94). Opening for the Married was Julius Caesar. Not the Roman statesman, of course.

  A manic second day featured the fall of 26 wickets. Trailing by 33 on the first innings, the Single batsmen produced an ordinary display and were kept to 124. Defending only 91, Heathfield Stephenson and Wisden bowled unchanged to condemn the Married to 75 all out. Wisden (5/36) took his customary fifer, backed by able support from Stephenson (4/39) at the other end.

  Back to Lord’s again it was on July, 10, 1871, a match held for the benefit of Kent’s Edgar Willsher, renowned for his role in the shift from roundarm bowling to overarm bowling. The first day was marked by the brilliance of William Gilbert ‘W.G’ Grace, who was eight days shy of his 23rd birthday. Opening the innings for the Single, he carried his bat for a stellar 189* out of a total of 310.

  Alfred Shaw, who would go on to bowl the first ball in Test cricket, took 5/70 for the Married. There was no play on the second day due to rain, but the final day saw the Single bowlers, led by Arnold Rylott (5/53), reduce the Married to a woeful 80/8. It was only thanks to a fightback from Shaw and James Southerton, who would also play in the inaugural Test, that the Married could reach 159.

  Following on 151 runs in arrears, the Married imploded in even worse fashion in the second innings. After Rylott and Robert Clayton knocked over the top order, James Lillywhite, bowling left-arm slow medium, made short work of the latter half of the innings. The Married melted from 78/5 to 78 all out, with Lillywhite, who would become England’s first Test captain, returning figures of 6-4-5-5.

  The last Married v Single fixture, the only one in the Test era, was played at Lord’s from May, 23, 1892. The Single maintained their stranglehold with a fifth consecutive win, and each over now had five balls, as against four balls in the previous six encounters. England’s medium-fast spearhead George Lohmann bowled 56 overs to take 7/121 on the opening day, restricting the Married to 230.

  The Single edged a lead of 66 despite being 172/7 at one point, thanks to fifties from John Read (61), Lohmann (58) and Robert Henderson (50). Lohmann further bettered his match, taking 5/58 in the second innings to ensure that the target for the Single was a gettable 119. A jittery start of 9/3 was overcome due to opener Andrew Stoddart’s 53, who paved the way for a five-wicket victory. 

Famous Test Matches – England v South Africa, Old Trafford, 1998

  South Africa had stormed to a 1-0 lead in the series with a ten-wicket win in the second Test at Lord’s, and came into the third, played at Old Trafford from July 2 to July 6, 1998, riding on a wave of confidence. The visitors replaced opener Adam Bacher and pace bowler Shaun Pollock, both of whom were nursing injuries, with Gerhardus Liebenberg and Makhaya Ntini respectively.

  England, on the other hand, made three changes from the drubbing at Lord’s; Dean Headley and Mark Ealham made way for strike bowler Darren Gough, who was fit again, and uncapped Warwickshire left-arm spinner Ashley Giles, while Nick Knight came in for Stephen James to partner Michael Atherton at the top of the order.

  Hansie Cronje won the toss and made the wise decision of batting first on a slow surface which had little for the fast bowlers. Gough provided an early breakthrough by castling Liebenberg, but thereafter, Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis combined to grind the English bowling into submission. The duo saw through the rest of the opening day and steered South Africa to 237/1 at close of play.

  While the 22-year-old Kallis reached his second Test century on the first day, Kirsten completed the milestone early on day two. Together they stayed put for more than 96 overs, adding 238 for the second wicket, which was a new record for South Africa’s highest partnership for any wicket since their return from isolation. Kallis batted for nearly six hours before being bowled by Gough.

  Kallis’ 132 came from 266 balls and featured 16 fours, but his wicket was but a speck of consolation for the toiling bowlers. Daryll Cullinan came in at number four, and along with Kirsten, further frustrated the hosts by batting dourly and resolutely, effectively snuffing out any hopes that England might have had of gaining the upper hand.

   South African opener Gary Kirsten batted for nearly eleven hours to compile 210 at Old Trafford in 1998 (source – cricket.com.au)

  Kirsten went on to a maiden Test double hundred and was eventually out in the final session, caught behind by captain Alec Stewart off Angus Fraser, for a marathon knock of 210. He occupied the crease for ten hours and 50 minutes, then the longest Test innings by a South African batsman, faced 525 balls and hit 24 fours and a six. His third-wicket alliance with Cullinan fetched 176 runs.

  Nine overs later, Cullinan perished after a defiant effort of his own, 75 in nearly five hours, thus giving 25-year-old Giles his first Test wicket. South Africa finished the day at 487/4 and seemingly on course to bat England out of the match. Cronje collected an unbeaten 69 in the first session of the third day, before declaring his team’s innings one ball short of 200 overs, the total reading 552/5.

  With a considerable challenge staring them in the face, England’s batsmen let their supporters down, succumbing to pace and spin alike. The tearaway Allan Donald applied the pressure first up, snaring Nick Knight and Nasser Hussain to leave England at 34/2. The seasoned pair of Atherton and Stewart dug in to add 60 for the third wicket, before the former was dismissed.

  Atherton was caught behind by Mark Boucher, who pouched his third catch, off Ntini, the first black cricketer to play for South Africa. His 41 would remain the highest score of the innings. Stewart was soon bowled by Kallis, and the score was now 108/4. To worsen matters for England, Graham Thorpe was fighting a back injury and had to be shifted down the order.

  Left-arm chinaman bowler Paul Adams, known for his ‘frog in a blender’ action, took care of the middle order, scalping three wickets, including that of Thorpe for a duck, to tighten the noose around England. The hosts endured another torrid day, ending at 162/8 and were presumably down for the count. They were duly bundled out for 183 the next morning, with Adams returning 4/63.

  With England 369 runs behind and close to five sessions left in the game, Cronje had no hesitation in imposing the follow-on. The start to the second innings was woeful – Knight, caught behind off Donald, and Hussain, cleaned up by Kallis, were again back in the hut cheaply. For the second time in as many days, Atherton and Stewart were under the pump to salvage a fast-sinking ship.

     England’s captain Alec Stewart scored 164 in the second innings to engineer his team’s fightback against South Africa (source – gettyimages)

  England’s aggregate in their last three Test innings was fifteen runs less than South Africa’s first innings total here, and they now found themselves 11/2 against a charged-up bowling attack. To say they were in dire straits would be an understatement. The pair in the middle was utterly crucial for England in the context of the game, what with Thorpe’s lack of fitness.

  Atherton and Stewart delivered when it mattered the most, ensuring that the South Africans would not find any further success on the fourth day. Stewart was relatively brisker, and reached his century in the final session, remaining unbeaten on 115 at stumps. England began the final day in a much safer position, at 211/2, but by no means they were out of the woods yet.

  England were now trailing by 158, and with eight wickets still in the bank, they had reason to be optimistic of saving the Test as the fifth day commenced. Atherton, eyeing a hundred of his own, and Stewart prodded along with prudence, before the former was taken out halfway through the first session, caught by Ntini off Kallis for a valuable 89, which ate up over six hours and 280 balls.

  The third-wicket stand between Atherton and Stewart realised 226 runs, and more importantly, saw off 83 overs. Mark Ramprakash joined his captain at the fall of the third wicket, and as was expected, went into an uber-defensive mode right away. The total had inched to 293/3 an hour after lunch, with England still 76 short of making South Africa bat again, when Stewart finally buckled.

  England’s unflinching wicketkeeper-captain had done his bit for the team, batting out close to seven hours for a valiant 164 from 317 balls, with 24 fours. Like Atherton, he fell playing the hook shot, caught by Klusener off the indefatigable Donald. This key wicket doubtlessly reignited the ‘White Lightning’, as Donald was known, and he proceeded to give England a rude jolt.

  Thorpe capped a sorry Test with his second duck, bowled by Donald in his next over. To add to England’s distress, Adams ejected Dominic Cork soon after, and the score was now 296/6 – three wickets had fallen for as many runs in as many overs. Glamorgan’s Robert Croft joined Ramprakash, and another 20 overs were cleared before Donald had the latter leg before wicket.

     Speedster Allan Donald bowled his heart out for South Africa in the second innings, taking 6/88 from 40 overs (source – gettyimages)

  ‘Ramps’ held fort for over three hours, scoring 34. Fours over later, Donald collected his fifth victim in the form of Giles. England were now 329/8, with more than 25 overs left to be negotiated. Croft began to show that he was no pushover, stodgily defying whatever the South Africans threw at him. He found support in an equally obstinate Gough, and they set about to thwart the tiring visitors.

  Croft and Gough battled for more than 20 overs and 75 minutes, but when Gough was out, caught by Kirsten off Donald, there yet remained 7.1 overs and England were still two runs away from forcing the fourth innings. However, Croft was unmoved; he levelled the scores amid rising tension, thus covering two more overs, for the change of innings.

  Fraser, the number eleven, played out 13 deliveries at the other end without opening his account, and this last pair had somehow survived for 31 balls to deny South Africa. The draw was ensured in the penultimate over, as even if a wicket had fallen in the last over, South Africa would not have had sufficient time to bat. The Test finished with scores level as England dragged to 369/9 in 171 overs.

  Croft remained unbeaten on a heroic 37 from 125 balls, absorbing the pressure for three hours and ten minutes. Donald led the way for the South Africans, who were on the field for 253.1 overs, with figures of 6/88 in 40 overs. The choice of Kallis as man of the match was perhaps a wee bit surprising, though there is no denying the vital all-round role he played.

  Inspired by this epic escape, England produced a high-impact performance in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, winning by eight wickets. It all boiled down to the decider at Headingley, which turned to be a gripping low-scorer that the hosts pinched by 23 runs, culminating in a special, come-from-behind series victory.

Match Scorecard

Guest Section – Revisiting Pakistan’s Champions Trophy campaign

  Before the commencement of the long-awaited ICC Champions Trophy, Pakistan was a team struggling for direction, representing a nation fighting for identity. The country has long been at the mercy of erratic politics and incessant terrorism that has left its sporting venues deserted and neglected for a major part of the last decade.

  Inner turbulence has been imitated in the way the national team has played its cricket. It is hard to build structures and promote stability when neither exists in the society. It is a challenge to make and execute plans when the nation has stooped to the lowest levels of confidence. At this point, everything is transitory and vague.

  Entering this exceptionally competitive tournament, Pakistan were the nethermost team; the rank-outsiders among the giants of modern cricket. Underdogs, to be precise. A flattering ranking, a newbie skipper, injury concerns to major stars returning to the squad and depleting resources suggested anything beyond a group-stage exit was highly improbable, if not out of question.

  The harrowing defeat first up against India in front of a jam-packed Edgbaston house took that out of proportion as well. The script was being followed to the T as far as Pakistan’s campaign was concerned. It was so traumatic that it triggered a couple of abrupt changes: Junaid Khan replacing a diminishing Wahab Riaz and Fakhar Zaman, a debutant, succeeding an out-of-touch Ahmed Shehzad.

  When things slide downhill briskly, writing Pakistan off is the easiest option. However, that comes up with its own perils as three cricketing titans, South Africa, England and India, found out later. The blunt, dicey changes proved a blessing in disguise, straightaway. The drubbing received in the initial game served as a motivating burst for this team, full of young and lively blood.

  The rejuvenated pace attack set about for newer adventures, showcasing composure and spitting fire as it came to terms with some of the best batting suits in world cricket. In a rain-affected match, Pakistan comprehensively clobbered South Africa – the No.1 ODI team at that fleck of history – and the western part of the subcontinent began finding its long-lost voice.

     Underrated Pakistan not just entered their first Champions Trophy final, but also subdued holders India to cap a memorable campaign (source – gettyimages/hindustantimes.com) 

  Gradually the notes improved, the tunes enhanced and the verses concluded. From these came determination, and from that, came expression. The world was too focused on the megastars, not realizing that the boys in green had begun scribbling a narrative of their own. Four days later, Pakistan brushed past Sri Lanka in what was to be an agonizingly close potential quarter-final.

  The warning bell had sounded. The predictably unpredictable greenshirts had emerged out of thin air. The bruised tiger was finally cornered and ready to assault. Extraordinarily and unbelievably, Pakistan marched into the semis, leaving the cricketing world bewildered.

  A fiery opener in Zaman was discovered, whose flamboyance and hit-everything approach peeled off the early shakiness and perfectly complemented Azhar Ali’s solidity. In Hasan Ali, they found a warrior who defied all odds and plucked out crucial wickets when they were needed the most.

  A fine leader, in the shape of Sarfraz Ahmed, materialized out of the pandemonium, marshalling his troops and conducting his orchestra with mastered skill as the flames erupted behind the old pavilion. The dignity of the remainders brought hope and the gallantry of the incoming promise. The overwhelming momentum and victory-seeking lust blew away the English as well.

  England, who happened to be joint favorites, were trounced at the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff and ousted from their own backyard. It was as immaculate and flawless a performance as cricket has ever witnessed. It was the other way around: unpredictably predictable. Pakistan breathed fire again.

  “We certainly want to come out and put our best game forward and win, and we want to go to London”, was what Mickey Arthur expressed after the see-saw battle against Sri Lanka. Well, that was where Pakistan were headed to after the semi-final thrashing, where the mighty, gifted Indians awaited.

  The Oval, with all its grandeur and majesty, was ready to adopt the vibrant South Asian colors and provide a perfect backdrop for what was to be a memorable Sunday eve. And you just had to be there. Hundreds of thousands of fans strolling down the South London alleys as they chanted trademark sub-continental slogans. Many more millions glued to their TV sets all around the globe.

      Mohammad Hafeez and Babar Azam rejoice after Pakistan completed a convincing win over hosts England in the semifinal (source – gettyimages/bbc.com)

  The sun hung like a brass coin on a thread, further dismissing any chances of rain interruptions. India decided to bowl first, apparently relying upon their stronger suit: chasing. The Pakistani duo made a cautious start until Zaman nicked Jasprit Bumrah to the keeper, in only the fourth over of the innings.

  Zaman begins drifting off the field; the man who has changed the structure of this batting line-up from an old woman pushing a shopping trolley to a rally car fluttering around bends dangerously. But then he is stopped mid-way and there is a daunting reason for that. Bumrah has overstepped.

  The blueish parts of the stands are muffled as the fans slouch down in disbelief. Even the Divinity was backing green that day. Making the most of this reprieve was what Zaman wished to do and he did that in some style. The flaying hook shots, the flashing cuts and drives, the heaves over cow-corner for magnificent sixes. In what seemed to be a blink of an eye, Zaman registered his maiden ODI ton.

  What an iconic venue to achieve it at! What a time to pull it off! What an opposition to score against! An incredible story had been penned down in the history books forever. The Babar Azam-Shoaib Malik pair built on this sensational platform to further stabilize the ship. However, it was not until Mohammad Hafeez arrived on the crease that the actual carnage unleashed.

  Who could have thought that Hafeez would suddenly discover this flexibility, this originality, this flair that changed perception and decimated India’s already woeful bowling attack? A quick-fire half-century supported by Imad Wasim’s unorthodox stroke-play meant Pakistan stormed to a mammoth total of 338/4 – the second highest in Champions Trophy history.

  The battle cry was at its loudest. The revolutionaries were retreating. The crowds waited as a sense of uneasiness surrounded the Oval. Jitters, panic and what not? On their day, the Indian batsmen could single-handedly wipe out the best bowling line-ups. Up front, facing Mohammad Amir, was Rohit Sharma. The dynamic, dominant Rohit, coming off a century in the semi-final.

      Fakhar Zaman raced to his maiden ODI hundred in the final against India, laying the foundation for Pakistan’s massive victory (source – AFP/indiatimes.com)  

  He tentatively nudges at the first delivery, wary of Amir’s murderous combo of pace and swing. Two balls later, he is pinned in front, courtesy of a quick in-swinger. Dead plumb. Rohit is gone. In comes the glorified warrior of the Indian soil, the greatest chaser the game has ever given birth to, the legend of modern-day cricket that is Virat Kohli.

  Amir beats him on the inside edge the very first ball he faces. The unsettled Kohli goes for an extravagant leg-side flick ten minutes later, which results in a top-edge straight to point’s throat. The green-lidded Pakistani section of the audience at The Oval goes berserk and the fielders swarm around Amir in joy. 200 million hearts rejoice and a billion hearts sink.

  At the rear of the Vauxhall End, the blaze rekindles. Synchronously, somewhere in a small dwelling in Karachi, a group of teenage kids scream their hearts out in utter elation, ripping their shirts off as they spurt around their home. Half of the game was won. Redemption tasted sweet. Greatness felt contagious.

  Kohli’s wicket was a killer blow that severely damaged India’s aims. An unthinkable batting collapse followed as wickets fell in a cluster. The greatest batting unit was surrendering as the Pakistani pacemen clawed through its defenses. Each and every bowler in the team got to taste and savour vengeance.

  The last wicket saw the ball lobbing up in the air and after what seemed to be an eternity, it dissipated into Sarfraz’s gloves and it was all done and dusted. The final nail was hammered into the coffin as Pakistan romped to a 180-run victory. The defending champions were dethroned and ambshed by their arch-rivals.

  History had been rewritten and preserved. One of the greatest comebacks in ODI cricket was accomplished. And once again, in all its unpredictability and fortitude, Pakistani cricket rose from its ashes, as resilient and hungry as ever.

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