Cricket Rewind 2017: Pakistan’s ICC Champions Trophy success big surprise
Pakistan’s march to the title in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 was the biggest surprise of the year but the country also saw the retirement of two legendary players in Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.Year Ender 2017 Updated: Jan 03, 2018 09:13 IST
Out of the 90 Tests, 250 ODIs and 118 T20Is played till December 14 this year, few matches rose above the predictability expected to fester in an undeclared two-tier cricket world. Surprises were few and far between, at least in Tests where the format ensures there is no short cut to success. Though it remains to be seen how the addition of Afghanistan and Ireland to the Test fold pans out the ICC has to be lauded for finally ushering in rules that limit the thickness of bats.
Among the bigger Test series, the Ashes have unfolded as per prediction. But Australia captain Steve Smith should be no less proud of a gritty performance in India that saw them lose 1-2 in a series India were tipped to win 4-0. England maintained a tight grip over South Africa in their 3-1 home series win but they were clearly not prepared for the underdog in Shai Hope who scored centuries in both innings to set up a famous West Indies victory in Leeds. England, though, wrapped up the series 2-1.
By aggregating 228 runs and taking nine wickets, Ben Stokes’ all-round abilities came to the fore in that series but England were left without his services in the Ashes after he was arrested for a nightclub brawl in Bristol.
Pakistan getting swept in New Zealand and Australia went along expected lines but their 0-2 loss to Sri Lanka in their adopted home of the UAE came as a shocker. Given Sri Lanka’s dipping stocks, exacerbated by a thrashing at India’s hands at home, nobody really gave them a chance in a country Pakistan had made their fortress.
In Tests, Sri Lanka endured a forgettable year when they were forced to a 1-1 draw by Bangladesh at home before Zimbabwe threatened to run away with the solitary Test played at the R Premadasa. Their T20 team, however, surpassed expectations by winning 2-1 in South Africa and Australia.
Bangladesh, by virtue of their drawn series in Sri Lanka and against Australia at home, gave a far better account than expected though Virat Kohli’s boys showed them their place in Hyderabad — the first time Bangladesh had toured India since getting Test status in 2000.
Despite the shock loss to Sri Lanka in the UAE, Pakistan will remember 2017 for their first-ever Test series win in the Caribbean after an edge-of-the-seat victory in Dominica. The 2-1 win will be one of the biggest chapters in Pakistan’s storied cricket history but it will also remind them of the retirements of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, possibly the last two greats of a once legendary Pakistan team.
Hardly a familiar team they might seem now, Pakistan though haven’t given up on the habit of occasionally making the world sit up and take note. Scoffing at predictions, Pakistan, having lost to India in the group stage, bounced back to win the Champions Trophy, beating India in the final.
Fakhar Zaman scored a stellar 106-ball 114 but the final was best encapsulated by Mohammed Amir’s celebratory run after dismissing Virat Kohli for five. India reached the final of the year’s other ICC event — the Women’s World Cup — as well but Anya Shrubsole’s six-wicket haul ended their dream in the 49th over.
2017 brought more good news to Pakistan after they were allowed by the ICC to host an international, eight years after the terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team bus. Sri Lanka agreed to play the third T20 of their tour in Lahore.
Giving further hope to Pakistan has been the emergence of serious potential in the form of leg-spinner Shadab Khan, medium-pacer Hasan Ali, and especially Zaman, who had a fabulous Champions Trophy with the bat. On the topic of ODI batting form though, Rohit Sharma continued to make headlines as he romped to a third double hundred in the ODI series vs Sri Lanka.
In Tests, Joe Root made his captaincy debut memorable by scoring a century at Lord’s but didn’t inspire confidence Down Under. But Smith has been unstoppable.
Centuries in Pune and Brisbane before a double ton in Perth showed he is already one of the best batsman Australia has produced.