After the devastating 124-run loss to India in their tournament opener, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur had aid that it was a "reality check for the team on where they stood in ODI cricket" but he had also promised that the team had the potential to turn things around. Both his statements have turned out to be absolutely true.
Pakistan used the lessons learnt in that match to make the necessary changes for the remaining matches and they result is that they have qualified for the final of the ICC Champions Trophy for the very first time defying all odds.
"We always believed that we could reach London for the final and we have have achieved that. I must congratulate the players for turning things around and buying into the brand of cricket that we wanted them to play. The best thing now will be to go on and win the trophy," coach Mickey Arthur said in the pre-match press conference on Saturday.
"There were some honest discussions after the loss to India and the boys took it on the chin and dragged themselves. A victory will be a nice confirmer for the players that we are on the right track so that we can continue building ahead for the 2019 ICC World Cup," the Pakistan coach added.
For Pakistan the idea was to fix the issues in the playing XI, and the biggest one was the lack of a stable opening partnership. While the resolute Azhar Ali was playing the job of the sheet anchor perfectly, Pakistan found it difficult to find a player who could be a perfect foil to him, as most of those selected to play the role of the aggressor found it hard to perform with consistency.
In walked the newcomer Fakhar Zaman and provided the stability at the top of the order that the Green Brigade so badly needed. With scores of 31 against South Africa, 50 against Sri Lanka and 57 against England in the semi-final, the left-hander has managed to solve Arthur's biggest problem.
"I think the youngsters have been committed towards playing the game the way we wanted them to. All of them have had an impact straight away and that is because they have played with no fear of failure," Arthur said.
Another youngster who has performed well and in fact been the most vital cog in Pakistan's campaign so far is Hasan Ali, who is currently leading the wicket-taking charts in the tournament. His transformation has helped Pakistan pick up wickets in the middle stages, which is extremely important in not allowing the opposition build momentum.
As far as Pakistan's record against India in big tournaments is concerned, it has always been tilted in favour of the 'Men in Blue', but this bunch is ready to change history.
"We have been playing attacking and positive cricket since the loss to India and we will look to continue the same momentum in the final as well. India is a strong team but we will try to play positive cricket and the result will follow," captain Sarfraz Ahmed said.
Another good news for the team is that premier paceman Mohammad Amir is fit to play the final and with Junaid Khan also in wicket-taking form, Pakistan will look to test the solid Indian top order, which has so far been impenetrable.
"We are ready with our plans for the match. I am not going to reveal my plans, but we have strategy prepared for the match," the captain said.
Coach Mickey Arthur also wants the team to focus on getting early wickets in order to put pressure on the untested Indian middle order.
So once again the battle will be between India's batting might and Pakistan's bowling arsenal. It is a the mother of all finals and the Oval is ready for a slugfest.
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First Published: June 18, 2017, 8:20 AM IST