As a 17-year-old, Mohammad Amir appeared to be a future prospect of the Pakistan Cricket team, a side that has produced quite a few World-Class pacers. However, the teenager, who made his international debut in 2009, would soon take the wrong road to only destroy his career. Amir along with his then skipper Salman Butt and teammate Mohammad Asif was found guilty of spot-fixing during Pakistan’s 2010 tour of England. During the fourth and final Test at the Lord’s, Amir and Asif deliberately bowled no-balls in return for payment from a betting syndicate.
While Butt and Asif were sentenced to 30 and 12 months, respectively, Amir being a teenager was sent to the prison only for six months. The sun was set for Amir. Everybody had accepted the fact that the fourth Test of the 2010 tour was the last time the world witnessed a bowler called Amir. In any sport, players come and go, but the game does not come to a still for anybody. In the following five years, the Pakistani fast bowler was slowly forgotten as his country had regrouped with new faces with an aim to bounce back again.
But the destiny had something else stored for Amir. He eventually earned something very precious – a second chance!
In January 2016, Amir returned to international cricket. He took no time to prove his worth. Amir’s spell with the new ball just got better with every game. He clinched a hat-trick during the Pakistan Super League which ensured him a place in Pakistan’s campaign in Asia Cup T20 and ICC World T20. His spell of 3 for 18 in the match against India in the Asia Cup match will always shine on his bowling charts. Amir had dismissed Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane in the opening over of the match before Amir had denied Captain Kohli a half-century.
Although Amir’s brilliant spell was not enough to help Pakistan beat India in that particular game, tables turned around a year later. And in style!
PAK > IND
The arch rivals again met at the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in England. Pakistan commenced the tournament with a humiliating loss to India by 124 runs (D/L method). However, after the poor beginning, the inexperienced Pakistan side never looked back. Fighting against all the odds and beating home favourites England in the semi-final, Sarfraz Ahmed’s Pakistan marched into the final. They were one victory away from a history – Champions Trophy was the only ICC event which was still not on Pakistan’s CV.
In order to finally have the hand of the coveted trophy, Pakistan wanted their best fast bowler to rip apart the pace-friendly Oval’s pitch on the final day. Despite losing five crucial years in his career, Amir was the bowler Pakistan could bank on. Had anyone still doubted his abilities, he has shut all the critics with a magical spell of 3 for 16 in the final of ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
The venue and the opponents only made the result even sweeter for Gujar Khan-born Mohammad Amir. The added pressure came from the opponents. Pakistan faced the red hot favourites and defending champions, India. And more importantly, they contended against arch rivals. They were well aware that the contest would be more than a match for the thousands of people back home – an India-Pakistan match was an emotion for both the teams and their supporters across the globe.
Thank you, Amir…
India won the toss and Kohli put Pakistan to bat first. It turned out to be an excellent lost toss for Pakistan Cricket. Making full use of batting first, the top-order of Men in Green batted without any trouble. Former Pakistani skipper, Azar Ali, along with the inexperienced Fakhar Zaman shared a 128-run stand for the opening wicket. After Ali was dismissed Zaman found support from Babar Azam and the duo went on to put up 72 runs for the second wicket. Zaman’s 114 off 106 balls helped ‘Underdogs’ Pakistan to pile up as many as 338 runs on the board in 50 overs. Be it any team, a 300-plus total is always difficult to chase down in a final of a tournament.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan walked in to open the innings for the defending champions. Rohit, who had scored 304 runs in the last four innings, was on the strike and Pakistan’s Amir had the ball with him. The very first ball, Rohit survived an inside edge. The second ball also was a good length delivery, Rohit chose to leave it. The third ball, bowled by Amir, was an in-swinger at a ferocious pace. Hit struck the crease and as Rohit tried to defend it around his front pad, the ball was pinned to his knee and the on-field umpire immediately raised his index finger. The oval erupted. The Pakistan fielders hollered and hustled towards Amir. The in-form Rohit was dismissed for a three-ball duck. India suddenly were under pressure.
“There is no fear when Kohli is here.” The game is never over for India until their captain is at the crease. Kohli boosted with confidence after his knock of unbeaten 96 against Bangladesh in the semi-final. Considering his previous knocks against Pakistan, Kohli was an obvious choice to deliver well in the final. Kohli faced the last three balls of the first over and scored two runs. Junaid Khan bowled from the other end. Dhawan faced the first four deliveries before Kohli ran for a single on the last ball and kept strike in the third over.
Amir continued. An outside edge and Kohli zipped the ball towards point for two runs. Kohli gets another edge that went straight towards Azar Ali in the first slip but the former captain dropped, which was a sitter. However, Amir proved why he is the best at present in the Pakistan camp. The very next ball was a back of the length delivery; Kohli played an early shot, flicked it on the on-side and a leading edge went straight to Shadab Khan, who completed the catch at the point. Amir made all the difference despite being unfit with a niggle in the back. The Oval chanted his name. Amir got the man, yet again. With Kohli’s wicket, Amir had drowned India’s ship to a great extent.
The Indian batsmen chose to keep the ball on the ground in the next few overs. They could not afford another dismissal as the required rate had slowly begun to go up. Just when Dhawan, who has always displayed a great show in Champions Trophy, looked to settle in, Amir sent him back to the dugout with an ideal delivery. He bowled a cross-seamer with an extra bounce and Dhawan only managed an outside edge that landed into the gloves of Sarfraz Ahmed behind the wickets. The wicketkeeper completed an easy catch and leaped in joy.
Before the final match, more than 95 percent of the runs were scored by the top-three in the Indian team and it were them who became Amir’s new ball victims and thereby cost India a record third Champions Trophy title. With a match-winning spell of 3 for 16 in London, the city that has a dark association with Amir, it is fair to say that the 25-year-old has at last earned redemption!