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5 defining moments of the Champions Trophy 2017

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Champions_Trophy_moments_CricketThe ICC Champions Trophy 2017 ended with a one-sided match as Pakistan won their maiden title by thumping India with a 180-run margin. Whether or not we will get to see another Champions Trophy in the future is still a point of discussion. For now, here is looking at the five defining features that stood out in this edition of the Champions Trophy.

Pakistan’s resurgence

No one. No one had given Pakistan even a whiff of a chance before the start of the Champions Trophy 2017. And after their humiliating 124-run loss to India in their first game, post-mortem scripts were already being written about the team and it was being assumed that they would be knocked out soon. However, a few tactical changes in the team and an out-of-the-blue resurrection saw them surge ahead.

They first shocked South Africa with a terrific bowling performance and won the game by seven wickets. Next they huffed, puffed and scratched to a three-wicket win over Sri Lanka and booked their entry in the semi-final of the event against England. Facing off against the tournament favourites, Pakistan produced another stunning bowling performance to bundle England out for 211 and won the match by 8 wickets. It was in the finals against India that Pakistan played like true champions: scoring 338 and then bowling India out for just 158 to clinch their maiden Champions Trophy title.

The stand out stars for Pakistan were youngsters Hasan Ali (13 wickets) and Fakhar Zaman (252 runs). Captain Sarfraz Ahmed was inspiring and got his tactics perfect after the first loss to India. All in all, Pakistan’s triumph in this Champions Trophy was the perfect underdog story and will be remembered for ages.

South Africa chokes, again

They are the No.1 ODI team in world cricket. They have some of the best batsmen, fielders and bowlers in their side. And yet, somehow, South Africa keeps faltering at ICC events. After their heart-breaking semi-final loss in the 2015 World Cup, South Africa had pulled themselves up gracefully and were looking as strong as ever. Apart from England and India, they were the clear tournament favourites.

However, a surprising loss to Pakistan where they wilted under pressure meant they had to win the final league match against India to reach the final. Here, too, they looked the better team. But South Africa completely choked again when it mattered the most. Batting first on a good wicket at The Oval, South Africa, after being 76-0 at one stage, completely imploded and three run-outs and some poor shot selection resulted in them being restricted to just 191. They lost the game by eight wickets and were knocked out of yet another ICC event. The cycle for South Africa continues.

Bangladesh stuns New Zealand to reach semis

While Bangladesh has already shown immense improvement as a limited overs side over the past few years, no one really expected them to go past the league stage in the Champions Trophy. After a loss against England and a washout against Australia, Bangladesh needed to win against New Zealand to stay alive in the tournament.

Chasing a target of 266 at Cardiff, Bangladesh was tottering at 33-4 and things looked all but over for them. However, an absolutely sensational 224-run partnership between Shakib Al Hasan (114) and Mahmudullah (102*) took them to a stunning 5-wicket win and eventually helped them reach the semi-finals of the event - their first appearance at this stage in an ICC event.

While they lost the semis against India, reaching there above sides like Australia and New Zealand in itself was a monumental moment in Bangladesh’s cricket history and should pave the way for bigger things in the future.

Favourites England knocked out in semis

This was supposed to be England’s tournament, their big turnaround in world cricket. After their humiliating loss to Bangladesh in the World Cup 2015, which knocked them out of the tournament, England had remodeled themselves tremendously well. They were the clear favourites playing in home conditions in the Champions Trophy and a victory here was being seen as a stepping stone to their new dominance in world cricket.

For a while, it seemed the script was falling perfectly in shape as England brushed aside Bangladesh, New Zealand and Australia to coast to the semis where they met Pakistan. It looked like another England victory was imminent. However, Pakistan surprised everyone by producing an outstanding bowling performance and knocking the robust England batting unit out for just 211 runs. England eventually lost the game by 8 wickets and was left licking their bruised egos.

Rain spoils the fun; a need for better scheduling

A lot of the entertainment factor from this edition of the Champions Trophy was spoiled because of the rain. While England and rain go hand in hand, the first half of the tournament was severely spoiled as rains kept intruding in important match situations. Because of incessant rains, games between New Zealand and Australia, and Australia and Bangladesh were abandoned and many other matches were frequently marred.

A few situations in the tournament were transformed because of these rains and, more importantly, these regular disruptions peeved the viewers to no end. In a time where 50-over cricket is already struggling for survival, these rain interruptions were pretty damaging. A lot of probably thrilling and exciting moments were lost in the tournament because of rains and the format can really ill-afford that.

It also begs the question regarding the scheduling of such a prestigious tournament in a place where it rains so regularly during this season. What’s even more concerning is that the ICC World Cup 2019 is also scheduled in England and at the same time of year.

 

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