It was the first semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy and England were up against Pakistan in Cardiff. The hosts, who were tagged as the favourites encountered the unpredictable Pakistani side at their best, and that halted their run in the tournament.
Pakistan won the toss and elected to bowl first on a pretty unpredictable surface. Mohammad Amir missed out due to a back spasm but his replacement Rumman Raees filled in for him big time.
Junaid Khan and Raees troubled the England openers with movement off the pitch up front. There were plenty of appeals but the luck went the batsmen’s way as they survived a few close shaves.
Their luck finally ran out though as Raees ended Hales’s stay at the crease in the 6th over, leaving England at 34/1. The new inclusion Jonny Bairstow looked in fine touch and found in Joe Root a perfect partner as the duo added 46 runs for the 2nd wicket.
Bairstow, after making 43 off 57 balls, was dismissed by Hasan Ali in the 17th over when the score read 80/2. Root and Morgan then began to steady the ship.
The turning point
Root and Morgan added 48 runs for the 3rd wicket and looked like taking the game away from Pakistan. The bowlers looked clueless and the game began drifting away in favour of the hosts. However, Shadab Khan stepped up and brought his side back in the game.
In the 28th over, Root looked to cut the ball but the leg-spinner induced extra bounce from the surface. The batsman only managed to edge the ball and it was taken cleanly by the keeper Sarfraz Ahmed.
Root hung around but the umpire raised his finger, sending him on his way. The right-hander was distraught with the shot he had attempted as he walked back to the pavilion. England’s score then read 128/3.
The brakes were applied on the scoring rate as Morgan and Ben Stokes struggled to break free. The spinners Mohammad Hafeez and Shadab got through some tight overs that halted the progress of the English innings.
To make matters worse, the skipper Morgan was sent back to the hut soon. In the 32nd over, the left-hander charged down to Hasan Ali who delivered the ball full from around the wicket. Morgan’s outstretched hands could only find a thin edge that carried to the keeper.
It was a body blow for England as they were left reeling at 141/4. In a bid to break the shackles, Morgan fell for 33 off 53 balls. He had been in excellent form this season and his wicket put Pakistan in the driver’s seat.
How the game panned out
From then on, Pakistan kept chipping away with wickets. Barring Ben Stokes, there was very little resistance shown from the other English batsmen. The death bowling of Junaid and Raees was excellent and they didn’t allow the batsmen to score freely.
Stokes waged a lone war, scoring 34 off 64 balls, but he too couldn’t hit a single boundary. As a result, England were bowled out for 211 with one ball still to be bowled in the innings. Hasan Ali bagged three wickets while Junaid and Raees finished with two wickets apiece.
Pakistan aren’t a great chasing side and England would have fancied their chances going into the break. All they needed was a few quick wickets at the start.
But the youngster Fakhar Zaman played another gem of an innings to get Pakistan off to a blistering start. His knock put the England bowlers on the back foot right from the start.
Zaman scored 57 off 58 balls with 7 fours and a six and when he was dismissed in the 22nd over, the scoreboard read 118. The other opener Azhar Ali played a steady hand of 76 off 100 balls to take his side close to the target.
After his dismissal, Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez completed the chase without any fuss, taking Pakistan home with 12.5 overs still to spare. Pakistan won the match by eight wickets and powered their way into the final.