India clash has London calling for Arthur's men

17 June 2017
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Mickey Arthur reflects on cricket's biggest rivalry and Pakistan's remarkable Champions Trophy campaign ahead of the final

About the Writer:

Martin Smith is a writer for He previously wrote for Yahoo!7 Sport and Fox Sports.

As coach Mickey Arthur pondered Pakistan's Champions Trophy campaign several months ago, he noticed a small and largely inconsequential anomaly.

All five of his side's confirmed matches, two warm-up games and three Group B contests, were scheduled to be played in either Birmingham or Cardiff. The other seven nations each had at least one match in the tournament's third host city, London, but Pakistan did not.

With the semi-finals scheduled for Edgbaston and Sophia Gardens, Arthur knew the only way his side was going to make it to the English capital was to qualify for the final.

Quick Single: Pakistan to target India 'underbelly': Arthur

And a mere 10 days after a furious cricketing media and public demanded heads roll and changes be made following a crushing defeat at the hands of their fiercest rivals, Arthur's men did exactly that.

As the South African coach sat in the stands of The Oval in south London on Friday, two days before his side takes on their oldest foe again in the final, he allowed himself a smile when asked if he could actually believe his team had managed to fulfil their tournament mantra after such a horrible start.

Fakhar tunes up for Champions Trophy final

"To be honest, I can't," he told "To bounce back and dust ourselves off after that first game against India has been phenomenal.

"I'm extremely proud of the boys, the coaching staff, the management, everything. It's really been a collective effort and we kept believing because we knew we had done the work and we knew we had prepared. So we kept believing that was going to be OK for us.

"We used 'getting to London' as a mantra for us. We wanted to make it to London and we have made it to London.

"And now we've got one more step to go."

To understand just how Pakistan have made it here, one has to go back to the nightmare that played out in front of Arthur's eyes on June 4 at Edgbaston.

Match wrap: Dominant India destroy Pakistan

His first taste of cricket's most intense rivalry was one that he'll always remember for reasons he'd rather forget.

It's hard to know what would have been a more horrifying experience for him and Pakistan's millions of devoted supporters; watching five Indian batsmen smash 319 runs in just 48 overs, or seeing their own team lose twice as many batsmen for around half the runs on the very same wicket.

It was worst-case-scenario stuff and Arthur was faced with the monumental task of scouring through the wreckage of his deflated team and salvaging something from a campaign that appeared doomed less than 24 hours after it had officially begun.

Quick Single: Amir firms for Trophy final return

"It's was unbelievably hard, it really was a tough time," he says. "There was a lot of soul searching done.

"You can imagine the magnitude of it; Pakistan v India, there was a lot of flak flying around and the boys were taking a lot of heat, all of us were. And rightly so because it was a very poor performance by us.

"But we knew we had prepared properly, we knew we'd done everything we possibly could in our preparation to be far better than that.

"We knew that was an aberration and it was just about giving the boys the belief that this was just an aberration. They just needed to stick to what they'd done and stick to what they knew and we'd be OK.

"But making them believe that was the tough part.

"And credit to the guys, they stuck to it and came out unbelievably against South Africa, scrapped hard against Sri Lanka and I thought we were outstanding against England."

Pakistan power into final, send England packing

As is Arthur's way when talking cricket, his summation of the past three games is honest, fair ... and spot on.

There's no doubt their victories over the Proteas and Sri Lanka each came with a healthy dose of good fortune thanks first to Birmingham's inclement weather and then Sri Lanka's questionable fielding.

Quick Single: Rewind to the original India-Pakistan final

But no one did them any favours against England in Cardiff on Wednesday, not even the worn surface at Sophia Gardens that unfairly dominated much of the post-match discussion. Pakistan simply batted, bowled and fielded better than the tournament favourites, their most complete performance of the campaign giving them another shot of confidence ahead of a re-match with India on Sunday.

They've made it to London, but they've got one final job to do now they're here.

Jubilant Pakistan fans celebrate semi-final win

"The last thing we want is to sit back at the hotel after the game and say 'that was a lost opportunity," Arthur says.

"The last thing we want to do is to sit in the change room at the end of the day and say 'we did really well to get to the final'.

"We've got an opportunity now to win it, which doesn't come around very often in world events. There's a lot of countries that haven't got to where we've got to.

"We've got to embrace it and go and win it. No regrets on Sunday."

No regrets. Not against India. Not this time.

Champions Trophy 2017 Guide

Squads: Every Champions Trophy nation


1 JuneEngland beat Bangladesh by eight wickets

2 JuneNew Zealand v Australia, No Result

3 JuneSri Lanka lost to South Africa by 96 runs

4 June – India beat Pakistan by 124 runs

5 JuneAustralia v Bangladesh, No Result

6 JuneEngland beat New Zealand by 87 runs

7 JunePakistan beat South Africa by 19 runs (DLS method)

8 JuneSri Lanka beat India by seven wickets

9 JuneBangladesh beat New Zealand by five wickets

10 JuneEngland beat Australia by 40 runs (DLS method)

11 JuneIndia beat South Africa by eight wickets

12 JunePakistan beat Sri Lanka by three wickets

14 JuneFirst semi-final: England lost to Pakistan by eight wkts

15 JuneSecond semi-final: Bangladesh lost to India by nine wickets

18 JuneFinal: Pakistan v India, The Oval (D)

19 June – Reserve day (D)

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