Sarfraz Ahmed’s Pakistan had the lowest ranking entering the Champions Trophy and were pilloried after a disappointing opening loss that had critics suggesting they could not advance beyond the group stage.
A sequence of three straight wins, including a semi-final victory over confident hosts England, means Pakistan were the first team to qualify for Sunday’s final, where they were seeking a rematch against India.
Imran Khan, who guided Pakistan to victory in the 1992 World Cup final, forecast an India-Pakistan final even before India’s semi-final against Bangladesh, which was to finish after press time last night, with Bangladesh batting first.
“Now the whole nation awaits our team making amends in the final against India — if they defeat Bangladesh,” Khan said on Twitter as he congratulated Pakistan on their semi-final win.
Pakistan were thrashed by 124 runs by defending champions India in the first group match in the eight-team tournament, but rebounded quickly to beat South Africa and Sri Lanka to qualify for their third Champions Trophy semi-final.
Sarfraz Ahmed, seemingly lost for words after the heavy loss to India, maintained faith in the younger players in the squad and it paid off in one of the most lopsided semi-finals in the tournament’s history.
The eight-wicket victory at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff was made possible with the likes of fast bowler Hasan Ali, opening batsman Fakhar Zaman and young spinner Shadab Khan.
“The turnaround is built on the inclusion of youngsters and it could only be done by a Pakistan team,” said Ramiz Raja, an ex-Pakistan captain who now works at a cricket commentator. “The tournament is no more about the rankings, because already No. 8 team is in the final.”
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