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Fresh blood makes the difference

Fast bowler Hassan Ali was the find of the Champions Trophy

Fresh blood makes the difference

Pakistan cricket is lucky to have had quality fast bowlers on regular basis since their debut in international cricket in 1952 against India: from Fazal Mehmood to Sarfraz Nawaz, Imran Khan, Aqib Javed, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan. There is a long list of fast bowlers who served many years or Pakistan and contributed to Pakistan’s many famous victories.

It’s only God gifted talent. There is no strong domestic infrastructure and there has been no international cricket in Pakistan since 2009.

After the ban on Asif and Amir in 2010, a vacuum was created in Pakistani fast bowling and spinners Saeed Ajmal, Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah spearheaded Pakistani bowling. Despite Amir’s return to international cricket last year Pakistan failed to make early strikes.

But during the Champions Trophy, Pakistan cricket found another winning combination of fast bowlers comprising Amir, Junaid and young Hassan Ali.

After losing the first match against India, Pakistan won all the matches, including the final. The main contribution came from the fast bowlers. They restricted the strong batting of South Africa, England and famed India.

Fast bowler Hassan Ali was the find of the Champions Trophy. Before the ICC trophy, Hassan had played one Test, 16 One-yay Internationals and seven T20 Internationals but he got worldwide fame with the performance in the Champions Trophy.

He looked ordinary in the first match against India in which he conceded 70 runs in 10 overs, but he made a comeback with confidence and took three wickets each in the rest of the matches:  3-24 against South Africa, 3-43 against Sri Lanka, 3-35 against England in the semi-final and 3-19 in the final against India. He finished the Champions Trophy as the highest wicket-taker with 13 wickets, averaging just 14.69. His economy rate was just 4.29.

For his outstanding performance he was named player of the Champions Trophy. He also won the Golden Ball Trophy.

Hassan is inspired by former Pakistan captain Waqar Younis for his aggression. He wants to bowl and earn fame like Waqar in international circuit.

Ali dedicated his performances to his brother, parents, and family. In an interview he said that it was his goal to become the best bowler after Pakistan’s tour of West Indies. He said his most memorable wicket was that of England skipper Eoin Morgan in the semi-final as his father wanted him to dismiss him as he was the in-form batsman for England.

About his unique style of celebration, he said it was like an explosion and he wanted to do something to entertain fans. He wants to continue playing well for Pakistan.

At the under-16 trials in Gujranwala in 2009, he did well and got selected for Gujranwala region. After playing for Gujranwala in junior cricket, he attended trials for Sialkot region. He made first-class debut for Sialkot in 2013.

He has an impressive first-class record with 128 wickets in just 29 matches, at an average of 24.61. He made his first-class debut at the age of 19 against Lahore Ravi and took four wickets in the first innings.

His 17 wickets in the National One-day Cup for Sialkot last year played a vital role for his selection in the national squad.

Pakistan Super League (PSL) has played a vital role in discovering new talent. Hassan represents Peshawar Zalmi in the PSL. Critics said that he was not capable of performing on international level, but in just one year he has proved them wrong and become the most successful bowler of the Champions Trophy in the presence of world class, experienced bowlers.

Champions Trophy Man-of-the-Match Fakhar Zaman also caught the eye in this year’s edition of the PSL. He represented Lahore Qalanders.

The 18-year-old Shadab Khan, the youngest man to play in an ICC final, was also the discovery of this year’s PSL. He played for Islamabad United.

Islamabad United’s left-arm pacer Rumman Raees made his ODI debut against unbeaten England in the semi-final. He replaced injured Amir and was asked to bowl with the new ball. Rumman never showed that he was playing his first ODI. He did his job by taking two wickets on debut.

Hassan played a decisive role in Peshawar’s success in PSL. Only two players took more wickets than him in this year’s PSL.

Hassan, 23, made his ODI debut in August last year at Dublin against Ireland. He failed to take any wicket, conceding 21 runs in five overs, but Pakistan won the match by 255 runs. Since his debut Hassan has taken 42 ODI wickets, while Amir is the next best with 25 in this period.

During the tour of West Indies this year, Hassan made his Test debut in the third Test. Hassan took three wickets in his first Test and Pakistan won by 101 runs.

Because of his outstanding performance in the Champions Trophy, he is now seventh in the ODI bowlers ranking.

With the Champions Trophy title, Pakistan also improved its ranking as an ODI team by attaining the sixth spot. They were eighth when the tournament began.

Pakistan are only the fourth side after India, Sri Lanka and the West Indies to have won all the three ICC majors, having already won 1992 World Cup and 2009 World T20.

Khurram Mahmood

Sports Khurram Mahmood

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