Amir was involved in the spot-fixing scandal that blighted the Lord’s Test against England in 2010. Five miles down the road on Sunday, his spellbinding work with the ball hurried Pakistan to a surprise victory over India, their greatest rivals, in the final of the Champions Trophy.
Amir was banned from cricket for five years and served three-months of a six-month sentence in a young offenders’ institute. But he put that behind him here with a magical spell of three for 16 in his first five overs, removing India’s top three batsmen – first Rohit Sharma, then Virat Kohli, followed by Shikhar Dhawan.
A spectacular 114 from Fakhar Zaman took Pakistan to 338 for four, after India won the toss. Despite Hardik Pandya’s 76 from 43 deliveries down the order, India could not rebuild after Amir’s brilliance, and were beaten by 180 runs.
“Mohammad Amir is a big-match player,” said Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur. “When the game is on the line, the more he performs, the more amped up he gets. He doesn’t shy away from pressure situations. He has proper big-match temperament and he showed that on the biggest stage.”
Pakistan continue to hold their own in international cricket, even though they have not played a major international team in their own country since March 2009, when the Sri Lanka team bus was attacked by terrorists while en route to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
Pakistan have been playing ‘home’ games in the United Arab Emirates since 2010. Captain Sarfraz Ahmed said: “We are now the champions, so hopefully this win will boost Pakistan cricket. Hopefully all nations will come to play in Pakistan [again].”
India were strong favourites after beating Pakistan easily during the group stages but captain Kohli said luck was not on their side.
He said: “Eighty per cent of Zaman’s shots were high-risk and they were all coming off. Sometimes on the day, the batsman is good enough to tackle anything. You can only do so much. You have little control when a guy is going as well as that. Pakistan played really well: credit to them for winning the title today.”