Pakistan arrived at the ICC Champions Trophy party and kept the Edgbaston party going with some brilliant cricket in a shock 19-run(D/L) win over South Africa. Overawed and overwhelmed by India in Birmingham last Sunday, Pakistan bounced back in style by defeating the number one-ranked team in the world.

Their supporters, much in the majority in the 18,646 crowd, created the atmosphere of a Pakistan home game. And despite the dampener of further unwelcome rain, as Pakistan’s pursuit of 220 was terminated at 119 for three after 27 overs, Edgbaston’s reputation as one of cricket’s top international venues was enthusiastically endorsed by vastly-experienced journalists from both teams.

I always find the people in Birmingham very hospitable which makes coming here even more enjoyable.

Shahib Hashmi

Shahib Hashmi, who has covered Pakistan cricket for 20 years, admitted he looks forward to visiting Edgbaston more than almost any other ground.

“It is a wonderful stadium, definitely in the top three in the world,” he said. “I always really enjoy coming here. There are so many Pakistan supporters in the city that it gives games that extra spice and flavour.

“And it’s not just about the cricket. I always find the people in Birmingham very hospitable which makes coming here even more enjoyable.

“The atmosphere at Edgbaston is always amazing, as it was for the Test match last year, but for the India match in the ICC Champions Trophy last Sunday it was just phenomenal. I’ve been lucky enough to attend a lot of big matches but that atmosphere was right up there with the best.

“It was just a shame that Pakistan played so poorly that day, so it was great to see them bounce back so well against South Africa.”

Hashmi’s warm words about Edgbaston were echoed by highly-respected broadcaster Neil Manthorp, who has reported on South Africa for 25 years.

“There’s no question that Edgbaston has become one of the standout grounds in international cricket,” said Manthorp. “It’s clear how much care and attention has gone into making it a great place to watch cricket but one thing that never changes is the atmosphere. I have covered international cricket around the world for 25 years and the atmosphere at Edgbaston, with the crowd in full voice, is second-to-none.

“It’s a ground which manages, at the same time, to be fun and intimidating. England have an outstanding record in Test cricket at Edgbaston, and a strong record there in all formats, and I am sure that is due not just to the way England’s players are lifted, but also the way opponents can be intimidated.”

If Pakistan’s young team appeared rather intimidated against arch-rivals India last Sunday, there were no such nerves in the must-win match against South Africa. The defeat to India triggered some tough words from coach Mickey Arthur and they hit home with the players judging by their performance in the field.
After South Africa chose to bat, they moved smoothly to 40 without loss but then lost six wickets for 78 runs in 20.4 overs. Imad Wasim started the collapse by trapping Hashim Amla with his second ball before meting out AB de Villiers’ first golden duck in 212 ODI innings.

It’s a ground which manages, at the same time, to be fun and intimidating.

Neil Manthorp

Hasan Ali then sent the Pakistan fans into overdrive with a superb burst of fast-bowling which peaked when he dismissed JP Duminy to make it 118 for five and blasted out Wayne Parnell’s off-stump next ball.
David Miller’s skilful unbeaten 75 at least levered the total over 200 but a total of 219, including only nine fours, was around 80 short of what South Africa envisaged when they chose to bat.

Pakistan’s reply was launched by a vivid and, it transpired, crucial flurry of boundaries by debutant Fakhar Zaman. The debutant raced to 31 from 23 balls, a cameo which gave his side so much impetus that even after they slowed, at one stage scoring just two runs from four overs, they were still ahead of the Duckworth/Lewis equation when the rain came.

To Pakistan’s fans, then, the joy and to South Africa’s the jolt, but the good news for both is they are both still in the running for a return to Edgbaston for a semi-final on June 15.