Pakistan Upsets India to Claim Its First Cricket Champions Trophy
LONDON — Pakistan’s players embraced, delirious, while grabbing stumps from the ground as mementos of a remarkable day. Their national team secured a scintillating upset on Sunday, defeating India, the defending titlist, to win its first International Cricket Council Champions Trophy.
Pakistan, the eighth and lowest seed in the 18-day tournament, beat India, its fiercest rival, by 180 runs.
“We wanted to inspire the nation,” said Mohammad Hafeez, a Pakistan batsman. “Millions of people waited for that — we’ve been waiting for a moment like this.”
Cricket in Pakistan has always been “a little blip of chaos to the straight lines of order,” as Osman Samiuddin wrote in the book “The Unquiet Ones: A History of Pakistan Cricket.”
The national team is renowned for its beguiling unpredictability and a propensity to oscillate madly between the hapless and the sublime, often several times in the same match.
Tumult accompanied the team into this tournament. Two players were suspended over suspected ties to gamblers. Another was declared physically unfit and sent home before the tournament. And during an early loss to India, one of Pakistan’s fast bowlers was injured and ruled out of the competition.
Yet Pakistan began the Champions Trophy, a miniature World Cup for the top eight one-day international teams, by underperforming even by the low expectations set for it. In a 124-run thrashing by India in its opening game, Pakistan could not even competently field the ball, the most basic skill in professional cricket.
Other teams had been preparing for the Champions Trophy since the conclusion of the World Cup in 2015, and all but Pakistan arrived in London with rosters full of experienced players. Pakistan had three players who were new to the one-day international format.
One of them, Fakhar Zaman, was the top run scorer in Sunday’s final. Zaman, 27, scored 114 in Pakistan’s total of 338/4 at the Oval, the London cricket ground that hosted the tournament.
Another leader for Pakistan, Mohammad Amir, had emerged during a 2010 tour of England as one of the most thrilling teenage talents in international cricket in many years, a left-armed bowler combining electric pace with swing.
His career went off course in a Test match at the Lord’s Cricket Ground that year. Amir bowled two no-balls that, according to The News of the World, were delivered in return for cash from a cricket agent. Amir was provisionally suspended and then, a year later, found guilty in a criminal case. He spent three months in a young offenders’ institute in Britain and was banned from playing cricket for five years.
Amir returned to international cricket last year, and while still worth his place on Pakistan’s team, he had become less mesmerizing than when he made his debut at 17.
But in front of 24,000 spectators at the sold-out Oval on Sunday, Amir produced a performance for the ages. He claimed three wickets in a captivating opening bowling spell — including Virat Kohli, India’s captain and the world’s most prized wicket.
For all the clichés about the team’s unpredictability, it has been a mediocre one-day side for many years, as evidenced by its ranking and a record of no finals in its previous 10 one-day international tournaments (the Champions Trophy and the World Cup) since 1999. This was India’s fifth appearance in a final since then, including its win in the last Champions Trophy four years ago.
Sunday’s result, watched by an estimated 400 million around the world, was a reminder that Pakistan’s cricket side retains an enchanting ability to renew itself and mock sporting logic as it does so.
The victory was even more notable for coming in Pakistan’s age of home exile. No major opponents have toured the country since 2009, when gunmen attacked a Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore, wounding at least a half-dozen players.
“Hopefully, this win, everyone will remember — not today, not tomorrow, but for a very long, long time,” said Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan’s captain. “Now we are the champions, so hopefully this win will boost Pakistan cricket, and hopefully all playing nations is coming to Pakistan.”
Hours after the final, the sound of jubilant Pakistan fans honking their car horns in celebration could still be heard at the Oval, where the confetti released to commemorate the victory was being cleared from the field.