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Pakistan upstage India to win title

Shikhar Dhawan bags the Golden Bat award for being the leading run scorer in the tournament

Defending champions India failed to retain the coveted trophy after a 180-run loss in the ICC Champions Trophy final against Pakistan. Asked to bat first, Pakistan posted an imposing 338/4 and bowled India out for 158.

India’s chase got off to a forgettable start with Rohit Sharma and captain Virat Kohli - the two protagonists of India’s massive win over Bangladesh – falling inside the first four overs. Mohammed Amir dealt a huge blow when he had Rohit Sharma trapped lbw off the third ball of India’s innings and then claimed Virat in his next over. Virat, who was dropped in the first slip on the third ball of the third over, perished on the fourth when he got a leading edge that traveled to the point fielder. With two wickets down for just six runs, India were in desperate need of a partnership and Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh were looking to forge one when Dhawan departed for 21. The fall of wickets continued as India then lost Yuvraj Singh (22) and MS Dhoni (4) in quick succession.

With half the side back in the pavilion, Hardik Pandya launched a stunning counterattack. He struck Shadab Khan for three straight sixes in one over that also included a four. Pandya continued to deal in boundaries and brought up his half-century in just 32 balls. Pandya was doing his best to put India’s chase back on track when an untimely run-out resulted in his long walk back to the dressing room. Looking to steal a quick single after Ravindra Jadeja had pushed the ball to covers, both the players ended up at the striker’s end. Jadeja then followed him soon after and India eventually were bowled out in 30.3 overs.

Earlier, the Men in Blue seemed to have an off day in the field as direct hits missed the mark, edges didn’t carry to the fielders and extras hurt the team’s cause. Jasprit Bumrah had Fakhar Zaman (114) caught behind in the fourth over, but it was later deemed a no ball as Bumrah had overstepped. That moment affected India as Pakistan capitalized with their openers adding 128 runs for the first wicket, their best in the ICC CT. With the pitch doing little to help the bowlers, Pakistan managed to put on valuable stands for every wicket.

Though Azhar Ali (59) was run-out, the mix-up didn’t play on Zaman’s mind as the youngster continued to torment the bowlers. Virat had introduced R. Ashwin into the attack in the eighth over and Jadeja in the 16th, but the spin duo failed to make any inroads. Both Ashwin and Jadeja went wicketless. Zaman brought up his century off 92 balls with 12 boundaries and two sixes. It was Pandya, who broke the deadlock when he had the centurion caught by Jadeja.

Like in the last game, Jadhav once again came to the rescue to end the 47-run stand between Shoaib Malik and Babar Azam when the latter stepped out to hit him but was caught by Yuvraj at the boundary. For India, Bhuvneshwar Kumar stood out with his control and accuracy. He bowled two maiden overs in his opening spell of five overs and when he returned, he removed Shoaib Malik for just 12. On a day when all Indian bowlers’ economy was on a higher side, Bhuvneshwar conceded only 44 runs from his 10 overs.

Brief scores: Pakistan 338/4 in 50 overs (Fakhar Zaman 114, Azhar Ali 59, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 1-44) beat India 158 in 30.3 overs (Hardik Pandya 76, Mohammad Amir 3-16, Hasan Ali 3-19) by 180 runs. 


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I visualize and think positively before a big game: Virat Kohli

The master batsman says he visualizes pulling his team out of trouble and that helps him perform consistently under pressure

It is only his first ICC tournament as India captain but the way Virat Kohli has led the team, one feels he has been wearing the captain’s armband for years. Winners of the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy under MS Dhoni’s leadership, India are now set to defend their title on Sunday against Pakistan under Virat’s captaincy.

Not once has high expectations and pressure got to him as India’s dependable No. 3 has batted brilliantly. With both Shikhar Dhawan (317 runs) and Rohit Sharma (304 runs) striking form, Virat (253 runs) has seamlessly switched role to that of an anchor in the middle overs before going berserk in the death overs. From overs 41 to 50, Virat has scored 50 runs in 26 balls without getting dismissed.

Ahead of the mega final, Virat revealed the secret behind his machine-like success. He said the key to his performance was positive thinking. “I visualise a lot. I see myself in difficult situations and actually convincing myself that I can pull the team out in those situations. It won't happen every time, but eight out of ten times it will end up happening because you're so convinced about it. So, I think it's how you prepare mentally is key in big games. That's something that I've worked on, and it's really worked well for me every time I've visualized and I've thought positively about the big games.”

In the age of technology, Virat said he preferred not drowning himself with excessive visuals. “I have never believed in watching too many videos of anyone. I prepare the best way I can. I believe in my abilities, and I feel like if I'm good enough, if I'm technically good enough, I should be able to counter any bowler that's bowling to me. I don't take extra pressure thinking he's bowling from here, what if he doesn't do that in the game.

“I like to go by what I see coming out of the hand, and yeah, I mean, whether you have played people before or you haven't, this game, as I said, you cannot guarantee a performance.”

Virat said that India’s massive victory over Pakistan in the group game won’t give the team an added advantage in the final. “I don't see any relevance of the first game here because you can never tell how a particular team starts a tournament. Some teams start very confidently and then they fade off. Some teams might not have the best starts, and they come back amazingly, which Pakistan has done. So, everyone is aware of the kind of talent they have in their team, and on their day they can beat any side in the world. That's the kind of players they have, and that's the kind of ability they have in their side”

He hinted at sticking to the same playing XI that helped India register an emphatic nine-wicket victory against Bangladesh in the semi-final. “Not looking to change too many things, because I've said this before, I would back a guy like Hardik who provides you so much balance in conditions that he can be effective as a bowler, and his batting is priceless. If you're chasing a total and you need eight an over and you've lost wickets, he's a guy who can still win you the game. That's the kind of belief he has in his ability and we have that belief in him.

“He can give you a match-winning performance in any game that he plays, and a gun fielder, as well. It's very hard to find a package like that. You need to back guys like him on a regular basis, and you will get those results where the team is in crisis and he stands up and gives a match-winning performance. So far he's been really good in the tournament. When he bowls well, it's a total relief for me as a captain because he can get you seven good overs. He can get you a couple of wickets, as well, and then with the bat and the field we know anywhere. Yeah, I would not think of changing anything at this particular stage.” 


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