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June 19, 2017



Fakhar lights up The Oval to put Pakistan on top

LONDON: Fakhar Zaman spent all of Saturday evening vomiting. The rookie batsman almost didn’t play in Pakistan’s ICC Champions Trophy final against India here at The Oval on Sunday.


Fortunately, he recovered in time and chose the big stage to smash his maiden international century that propelled Pakistan to 338-4 against a hapless Indian side.

The left-handed opener, playing in just his fourth One-day International, overcome some anxious moments early in his innings to hammer 114 from 106 balls to lead Pakistan’s charge in their first-ever appearance in a Champions Trophy final. He hit three sixes and 12 fours in what was his third consecutive 50 plus score in the tournament.

The 27-year-old was favoured by lady luck as he earned a reprieve when he was dismissed by pacer Jaspril Bumrah for 3 but off a no-ball.

Fakhar, who finished the Champions Trophy with an aggregate of 255 runs from four matches at an average of 63.75, made the most of that let-off as he turned the game on its head with a blistering knock that tilted the balance in Pakistan’s favour.

The ‘Fauji’ as he is known among his team-mates because of his Navy background, unleashed his trademark strokes after settling down. He hit big powerful strokes off the likes of Bumrah and then used his feet well to neutralize R Ashwin. The seasoned off-spinner, who has been Virat Kohli’s go-to man for breakthroughs, appeared fangless in front of Fakhar, who milked him for runs along with fellow opener Azhar Ali. Ashwin finished with unflattering figures of 0-70.

After Kohli asked them to bat first, Pakistan took control of the proceedings on the back of a solid 128-run opening stand between Fakhar and Azhar.

Fakhar’s only forgettable moment of the day came in the 23rd over when he was caught ball watching, allowing the Indians to break the partnership by running out Azhar for 59.

Fakhar himself fell in the 34th over with Pakistan at 200 when he tried to hit medium pacer Hardik Pandya out of the park only to mishit it and watch Ravindra Jadeja take a brilliant catch running back from point.

By that time, Pakistan were well on course for a big total. They finished with 338-4 — the highest score in the Champions Trophy.

While the whole of Pakistan celebrated the rookie batsman’s first ODI century, the mood was especially joyous in his family home in Katlang area of Mardan.

Faqir Gul, Fakhar’s father took centrestage as the media frequented his house before and after the final.

Fakhar, later, acknowledged that he was lucky to have played such a heroic innings.

“I was lucky with the no-ball,” he said during the innings break.

Fakhar said that he loved every moment of his knock in the final.

“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.

“I took my time to begin with, you look at the wicket and then play your natural game.”

He did just that and Pakistan made the most of it.