The eclectic XI who made history for Pakistan at the Oval

Profiles of the 11 who defeated tournament favourites India by the largest-ever recorded margin in an ICC event final.
Published June 21, 2017

A record-shattering, 180-run win over arch-rivals India means a lot more than just the 'champions' title for the Pakistani side.

In addition to completing the trio of International Cricket Council (ICC) event trophies for Pakistan, the win has given the world an eighty-over trailer of what can be expected in the future from the resurgent cricket team.

Today, we take a look at the eclectic eleven Pakistan sent in to The Oval against tournament favourites India to turn history and stats on their heads ─ the eleven who helped the national side to the largest-ever recorded margin of defeat in an ICC event final and made magic happen with their surreal performance on-field.

Azhar Ali

Azhar Ali runs to make his ground during the CT final. ─ AP/File
Azhar Ali runs to make his ground during the CT final. ─ AP/File

Hailing from the small Punjabi town of Kot Radha Kishan, Azhar Ali embraced cricket as a career at a young age, gradually progressing through the domestic circuit and ultimately being recognized as a reliable opening option by the departments he played for in First Class and List A games.

Thanks to Pakistan's shaky opening combination in Test matches at the turn of the decade, Ali, at the age of 25, was called in to represent his country in red ball contests ahead of an ODI debut the following year.

He has since matured into a compact opener for the side, recently becoming the first-ever day-night Test centurion, double centurion and triple centurion all thanks to his innings of 302 against West Indies in October 2016.

Now 32-years-old, Ali, as per his trade, opened for Pakistan throughout the Champions Trophy.

Known for his resilient and consistent record, Azhar did not disappoint: he started off with a 50 against India in the first game and carried his form through till the end — scoring back-to-back 50s in the last two games, which includes the important 59 in the final on Sunday.

Fakhar Zaman

Fakhar Zaman celebrates his century, going on to score 114 runs before being caught out on a Hardik Pandya ball.─Reuters/File
Fakhar Zaman celebrates his century, going on to score 114 runs before being caught out on a Hardik Pandya ball.─Reuters/File

Born in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Fakhar moved to Karachi when he turned 16 to serve in the Pakistan Navy for six years before deciding to pursue his dream of playing for the national side in 2013.

Calling Fakhar one of the greatest finds of Pakistan's Champions Trophy campaign this year would be an understatement.

At 27 years of age — and having played just three T20Is for Pakistan in the past with an unimpressive average of 13 — Fakhar was considered nothing more than a wild card entry to Pakistan's squad.

Known by the nickname 'Fauji', Fakhar made good of the opportunity and scored a decent run-a-ball 31 in his first One Day outing for the Pakistan side in the crucial knockout game against South Africa.

Perhaps the most promising takeaway from Fakhar's Champions Trophy outing was the way he built upon his performances throughout the tournament.

Starting off with the 31 against South Africa, he went on to score back-to-back 50s against both England and Sri Lanka, before bringing a career-defining debut run to an end with a match-winning 114 against India in the final.

In Fakhar, Pakistan seems to have finally found a free-flowing opener to compliment Azhar's cautious style of play, making for a well-rounded opening pair to lead Pakistan's batting attack in the days to come.

Babar Azam

Babar Azam (L) and Mohammad Hafeez (R) celebrate victory against England as they leave the pitch. — AP/File
Babar Azam (L) and Mohammad Hafeez (R) celebrate victory against England as they leave the pitch. — AP/File

Lahori by birth, Babar Azam is known for his level-headed attitude at the crease. He evolved by performing from a young age, starting off his professional cricketing career by playing in the Under-15 World Championships in 2008 and slowly crawling his way up the order by representing Pakistan in the Under-19 World Cups of 2010 and 2012.

After making a name as a consistent top-scorer in age-restricted national events, Babar was called up to represent the green shirts in a home ODI series against Zimbabwe, allowing him to make his international debut on home ground amidst Pakistan's isolation as an international cricketing venue.

At 22 and heading into the Champions Trophy, Babar was already reckoned as someone who had the ability to stabilise Pakistan's shaky middle-order.

The high expectations accompanying him meant his '50-less' Champions Trophy run disappointed some fans and critics at home. However, Babar's top score during the tournament came in the crucial final, where he scored 46 before getting caught as a result of a miscued slog off Jadhav's delivery.

In spite of his poorer-than-expected performance in the tournament, Babar still averages over 50 in his 31 ODI appearances and has leapfrogged several spots to reach a career-best fifth place on the ICC's ODI Batsmen Rankings.

Owing to his relatively young age, Babar looks set to be a regular on the Pakistani side for at least the upcoming decade.

Shoaib Malik and Muhammad Hafeez

Shoaib Malik up to bat. ─ AFP/File
Shoaib Malik up to bat. ─ AFP/File

With over 400 ODI matches in between them, the Shoaib-Hafeez duo ideologically adds a much-needed layer of experience in a predominantly inexperienced team.

Shoaib Malik, with 252 ODI appearances under his belt, is by a clear margin the most experienced player on the Pakistani side.

Born in the Punjabi city of Sialkot, Malik, after starting his career as an off-break bowler in the 1990s, has grown into a batting all-rounder with a 17-year history of being dropped out of the side and then recalled.

In spite of selectors' love-hate relationship with him, the now 35-year old former captain of the Pakistani side remains one of the most versatile players in the game, but has set his eyes on retirement after the 2019 ICC World Cup.

Unfortunately, Malik was unable to break into the 20s in his four innings during the tournament and was caught for just 12 in the final against India.

Mohammad Hafeez celebrates after Pakistan win the semi-final in Cardiff on June 14. ─ AFP/File
Mohammad Hafeez celebrates after Pakistan win the semi-final in Cardiff on June 14. ─ AFP/File

Former skipper of the Pakistani side, 36-year-old Sargodha-born Muhammad Hafeez has now represented Pakistan in all formats of the game for almost 14 years.

Largely known as an opener, Hafeez has, over time, been played experimentally against the opposition in different slots in the batting attack. Along with being a regular opener for Pakistan, Hafeez has proven a handy bowling option ─ much like Malik.

Hafeez, on the other hand, had a better Champions Trophy than Malik thanks to two scores in the mid-30s and a quickfire, unbeaten 57 in the final match that helped Pakistan breeze past the 300-run mark and post a very competitive total.

Sarfaraz Ahmed

Sarfaraz holds the trophy after the award ceremony. ─ AP/File
Sarfaraz holds the trophy after the award ceremony. ─ AP/File

About to complete 10 years representing the green shirts, Karachiite Sarfaraz Ahmed, for the first seven years of his career, was not even loosely considered as a regular for the side and was on the brink of teetering into irrelevance as he looked for a place behind the stumps ─ an area ruled by the three Akmal brothers.

Sarfaraz's rise to prominence only came in 2014, when he scored a 74 in the second innings against Sri Lanka in Dubai. Since then, there has been no turning back: he further cemented his role in the side and was sworn in as the captain of the Pakistani team in February this year.

As a teenager, he had taken Pakistan's U-19 team to World Cup glory back in 2006; a little after his 30th birthday, he dismantled defending champions India to bring home the Champions Trophy for the first time in the country's cricketing history.

Sarfraz consequently became the first Pakistani after Imran Khan to have led his side to a 50-over title. It was a 25-year wait that came to an end on Sunday.

Since opposing teams were generally unable to tear apart and bowl deep into Pakistan's batting owing to solid performances by both openers and limited targets thanks to the team's outstanding bowling performances, Sarfaraz only came out twice to bat during the Champions Trophy.

In his two outings as a batsman, Sarfaraz put up scores of 15 (against India) and an unbeaten, match-winning 61 against Sri Lanka.

While his innings against Sri Lanka can be regarded as one backed by the sloppy fielding of Sri Lankan players, it can be argued that where Sarfaraz lacked with the bat, he more than made up of it with his aggressive approach in leading an inexperienced side to an ICC title.

Imad Wasim

Imad Wasim celebrates. — AFP/File
Imad Wasim celebrates. — AFP/File

Born in the British county of Swansea, Imad Wasim was set to become a doctor before he got an offer to represent Pakistan at the U-19 level. Idolising Wasim Akram, Imad initially wanted to develop his game as a pacer before his coaching staff asked him to consider a switch to left-arm spin due to his lack of pace.

Read more: Switch hit: How Imad Wasim quit medicine to chase cricket dream

Following the suspension of Saeed Ajmal, Imad got his much-awaited call to the international scene in 2015. Since then, there has been no looking back for the sportsman ─ he retained a spot in the squad for a second successive ICC event after representing Pakistan in the ICC World T20, which took place in 2016.

Perhaps the only bowling all-rounder present in Pakistan's One-Day squad, Wasim's Champions Trophy final ended with a wicket-less spell and an undefeated 25 in the final for consolation.

Overall, Imad was only able to pick up a couple of wickets against South Africa and struggled to get into the double figures with the bat throughout the tournament.

Being 28 years of age, Imad still has a lot of cricket inside of him; and since one match or tournament cannot decide the fate of a cricketer, critics hope to see him back in form going out of the Champions Trophy.

Shadab Khan

Shadab Khan (L) jumps in jubilation after taking the wicket of Joe Root (unseen) for 46 runs. ─ AFP/File
Shadab Khan (L) jumps in jubilation after taking the wicket of Joe Root (unseen) for 46 runs. ─ AFP/File

Shadab Khan hails from Mianwali, the town that has been responsible for producing two of the greatest Pakistani cricketing talents: former captains Imran Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq.

Shadab moved to Rawalpindi when he was 12, and built his skills under the mentorship of legends Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed at the National Cricket Academy, Lahore. He received his first major gig when he was asked to represent Pakistan in the U-19 World Cup of 2016, where he became the joint highest wicket taker for the team by picking up 11 wickets in 6 games at an impressive average of 19.

Rising to prominence after the Pakistan Super League's 2017 edition, the 18-year-old broke the internet when he vehemently asked Sarfaraz to review the umpire's decision to not give Yuvraj Singh out on a leg before during the Pak-India Champions Trophy final.

Owing to the English tracks, which did not hold much in store for spinners, Shadab ended his Champions Trophy run with only four wickets in the tournament at the cost of a staggering 172 runs.

On the road forward, despite an uneventful Champions Trophy outing, the 18-year-old will continue to be a force to be reckoned with on spinning tracks.

Junaid Khan

Junaid Khan celebrates after taking Ravindra Jadeja's wicket.
Junaid Khan celebrates after taking Ravindra Jadeja's wicket.

Junaid, born in the small town of Matra in KP, was the first player from Swabi to qualify for the national cricket team. He was followed by his cousin, the exceptional spin bowler Yasir Shah, later on.

Junaid earned the spotlight when he was recorded as the fastest bowler in the NWFP T20 competition at 16 years of age, which led to a First Class debut in 2007.

Junaid was also called to represent Pakistan in the 2008 Under-19 World Cup; However, throughout the tournament, he was not given a chance to break into the playing XI.

In dire need of a pacer after the loss of Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif during the 2010 spot-fixing scandal and the retirement of Shoaib Akhtar, Pakistan drafted Junaid into the ODI and Test sides in 2011.

Due to frequent injuries, Junaid has been in and out of the Pakistani side ever since his international debut.

Returning to form in the Champions Trophy, the 27-year-old left-armer picked up a total of 8 wickets in the four matches he played. With 62 ODIs under his belt, Junaid very ably complimented the in-form Hassan Ali in the absence of injured Wahab Riaz.

Perhaps the highlight of his Champions Trophy campaign was his three-for against Sri Lanka, where he tore apart the top and middle-order of the opposition to cement Pakistan's chances of qualifying for the semi-finals.

In the final, Junaid remained an economical option for Sarfaraz and picked up the wicket of Indian all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja.

Muhammad Amir

Mohammad Amir celebrates taking the wicket of India's Rohit Sharma. ─ AFP/File
Mohammad Amir celebrates taking the wicket of India's Rohit Sharma. ─ AFP/File

Born in the town of Gujjar Khan, Amir was hand-picked by legendary left-arm pacer Wasim Akram from a pace bowling camp he oversaw in Lahore in May 2007.

Akram had labeled Amir as a 'special talent.'

After a steamy run in both domestic and international circles, Amir made headlines as a potential successor to the King of Swing.

However, his red-hot form hit a wall when he was named among three Pakistani players accused of spot-fixing during Pakistan's 2010 tour of England.

He was consequently handed a five-year ban in February 2011. He made a return to all formats of cricket in September 2015.

Amir's first real comeback came up against India during an Asia Cup game in Dhaka, where he rattled the Indian top-order by picking up three wickets in quick succession.

Returning to England after the spot-fixing debacle of 2010, Amir searched for form throughout the Champions Trophy tournament before breaking into the solid Indian top-order on Sunday in a way that was reminiscent of his Asia Cup performance against the same opposition..

The 25-year-old set the stage for the Indian batting collapse by picking up Rohit Sharma on the third ball of the innings, following it up with the wicket of Indian skipper Virat Kohli in his second over.

The three wickets he took in his opening spell during the final, put together with the couple of wickets he bagged against Sri Lanka, more definitely than not signal a return to form. Expect greatness in the years to come.

Hasan Ali

Hasan Ali celebrates after dismissing Eoin Morgan for 33 runs. ─ AFP/File
Hasan Ali celebrates after dismissing Eoin Morgan for 33 runs. ─ AFP/File

Making his first-class debut at the age of 19, the Mandi Bahauddin-born Hasan Ali left a mark on the domestic circle after a four-wicket haul in his debut innings.

Hasan then rocketed to prominence when he took two five-wicket hauls in his first 15 ODIs thanks to his tight lines.

Playing in his first major tournament, Hasan had received his share of skepticism from critics ahead of the Champions Trophy.

Silencing the doubters with his performance, Hasan became the most successful bowler of this year's Champions Trophy by a fair margin as he picked up 13 wickets during the tournament to receive the coveted Golden Ball along with the Player of the Tournament award.

Jumping 12 places, the 23-year old now ranks 7th in the ICC Bowlers Ranking.

Starting off with a 124-run humiliation against the same side they defeated by a record-breaking 180-run margin in the final goes to show how Pakistan evolved as a team within two weeks to come up with a winning combination that stole the title from the defending champions on Sunday.

On the road ahead, it will be interesting to observe how this young team handles their stardom to perform with the same effect heading into the next big tournament, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.