Pakistan cricket was in all sorts of trouble coming into 2017. At the start of the year, the team was facing criticism after losing the test series against Australia. The prospects of the ODI team were equally bleak with question marks over Azhar Ali’s captaincy.
The failure against Australia in the ODI series prompted the Pakistan cricket board to hand over captaincy reigns to Sarfraz Ahmed. As the year progressed, Pakistan reestablished itself as the most dangerous side in world cricket. A combination of existing new talent along with a new leader helped the men in green in claiming the Champions trophy 2017.
At the same time, the year also marked the return of international cricket to the country with the tours of Sri Lanka and World Eleven. With so many positives, let us today look back at the biggest talking points of the year that rejuvenated Pakistan cricket.
A Fairytale Ending
The test series against West Indies marked the last time Misbah Ul Haq and Younis Khan represented the international team. The two legends were set for a memorable farewell after the bowlers had restricted West Indies to 93 for 6 with a target of 304 on the final day.
The series was leveled at 1-1 and the team needed just 4 wickets to claim a test series in the Caribbean for the very first time. What was supposed to be a memorable farewell; turned into a nail-biting finish as Roston Chase threatened to lead West Indies towards a historic draw.
Pakistan had just two overs to win the test matches. It was at this moment when Yasir Shah stood up for his captain to take the final wicket and seal the game in Pakistan’s favor. This was truly a fairytale ending for the two the legends. The test team will never be the same without the presence of the two Pakistani greats.
The biggest win for Pakistan cricket after 1992
No cricket fan on the face of the earth could have predicted a victory for Pakistan in the ICC champions trophy 2017. The team was at the bottom of the rankings and had no players who could blow away the opposition. At least that is what we thought.
After an embarrassing loss against India, the men in green never looked back. They went on to defeat South Africa, Sri Lanka, and England to qualify for the final against arch rivals India.
A brilliant century from Fakhar Zaman in the first innings helped Pakistan establish a strong total of 338 in the final. A magical new ball spell from Mohammed Amir in the second innings demolished the Indian top order. A reeling Indian batting line up could never pick up steam despite Pandiya’s best efforts. Eventually, Hassan Ali took the final wicket to dismiss India with just 158 runs on the board.
Sarfraz Ahmed lifting the Champions trophy is a moment that every Pakistan Cricket fan will cherish for years to come. As a result of the victory Pakistan directly qualified for the 2019 world cup. The victory helped the team rediscover its lost confidence in limited overs cricket.
International cricket returns
Pakistan has been unable to host international cricket since the attack on Sri Lankan team in 2009. All this changed with the announcement of the World Eleven tour in September.
While the Zimbabwean team did come to the country, the World Eleven tour was the first time an official ICC tour took place in the country since 2009. All of the matches received overwhelming support from the fans. The sold out stadiums and the noisy atmosphere gave an insight into how much Pakistanis love Cricket.
The successful tour of World Eleven made way for other teams like Sri Lanka to come to Pakistan. With the final of the Pakistan Super league scheduled in Karachi and the tour of West Indies scheduled for March, the country is already enjoying the fruit of a successful world eleven tour.
The emergence of Hassan Ali
Pakistan cricket has a history of producing some of the best fast bowlers in the history of the game. However, no fast bowler in the recent years has been as exciting as Hassan Ali. The 22-year-old burst on to the scene with the first edition of PSL and has come into his own in 2017.
Hassan was one of the key reasons for Pakistan’s dramatic comeback in the Champions trophy. Aside from the first game of the tournament, Hassan picked up 3 wickets in all the matches to take his total tally of wickets to 13. The performance helped him earn the player of the tournament award. He went on to decimate the Sri Lanka batting line up during the ODI series to become the highest wicket taker of 2017, in ODI cricket.
2017 has indeed proven to be a landmark year for Pakistan cricket. While the Test team is yet to regain its full strength, the emergence of young talent, the return of international cricket and the Champions trophy victory have undoubtedly rejuvenated Pakistan cricket. Let’s hope the team enjoys similar level of success in 2018.