London - Pakistan paceman Hasan Ali hopes the Champions
Trophy final with arch-rivals India will see him continue to live the dream he
had before the competition started.
The 23-year-old has been central to Pakistan's progress
since a woeful 124-run defeat by India in their tournament opener at Edgbaston
on June 4 and heads into Sunday's final at the Oval as the 2017 edition's
leading wicket-taker with 10 at an average of just 17.20 apiece.
Given that Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India's most successful
bowler, has taken six wickets so far, it will take something special to stop
Hasan from finishing as the leading wicket-taker in a tournament featuring the
world's top eight one-day international sides.
Hasan's achievement is all the more impressive given he only
made his ODI debut in August last year.
"It's like a dream," Hasan said on Friday. "I
set a goal for myself during the West Indies series (in Guyana in April) and it
was to become the best bowler in the Champions Trophy.
"I want to achieve that goal," added Hasan, whose
20 career ODIs have yielded a haul of 39 wickets at an average of 23.92 -
impressive figures in a form of the game where, with fielding restrictions and
increasingly short boundaries, the odds are often all in favour of batsmen
making big scores.
"Now when I knew that the best bowler will get a
'golden ball', I am determined to get that souvenir as it will be my first in
Hasan's impressive array of skills were on show during
Pakistan's dominant eight-wicket semi-final win in Cardiff on Wednesday against
an England side previously unbeaten in the tournament.
Unafraid to go round the wicket, Hasan took three for 35 - all
top-order wickets - against a powerful batting line-up as England slumped to
211 all out.
The pick of his dismissals was when Ben Stokes, fresh from
his ODI best 102 not out in Australia in the group stage, was completely
deceived by a slower ball that landed on a near yorker length and spooned a
catch to mid-off.
Hasan paid tribute to the influence of Pakistan bowling
coach Azhar Mahmood, himself a vastly experienced former international
seam-bowling all-rounder who also spent several seasons in English county
cricket, notably with Oval-based Surrey.
"I will give the credit for my improvement to Azhar
Mahmood, who has been working very hard with us bowlers," said Hasan,
adding: "I have the much needed rhythm, so I will do my best to continue
Pakistan's resurgence since their opening defeat by India
has been something to see even allowing for their reputation as world cricket's
most "unpredictable" team and Hasan insisted the pressure of playing
India, the title-holders, in a final would not cause his side to retreat back into
"I am very positive about the final," said Hasan,
who took one for 70 when the teams net in the group phase.
"The mistakes we committed in the first game will not
be repeated and we will try to execute the plans given by coaches," he added.
Hasan's exuberant celebration when he takes a wicket, with
the bowler leaping high in the air, with arms and legs then going out at
different angles, has become one of the signature sights of this Champions
"It's a bit different," he said. "I enjoy it
very much and I hope (Pakistan) fans will pray that I do this four or five
times in the final."
If he does, favourites India had better look out.