Cricket is no more a bowler's game. The people championing this philosophy in the days of short versions of the game received a rude awakening in the 2017 Champions Trophy. The tournament many can claim belonged to the bowlers – accompanied by a few delightful batting knocks.
The pitches were slow and dry and surprisingly, there was no swing to aid the bowlers. But with some exceptional tactics throughout the 18-day journey of this mega event, the men with the ball in hand found ways to run through the defences. Pakistan's reverse swinging pacers and India's death bowling were some of the best showpieces in the tournament.
On that note, here are the top five bowlers from the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 who rattled the batsmen and sizzled on the biggest of stages:
#5 Josh Hazlewood (Australia)
The Australian swing bowler had the best figures in this competition as he finished with figures of 6/52 in the game against New Zealand. This was the joint best effort in Champions Trophy history, only bettered by Farvez Maharoof’s spell of 6/16 in 2006. Though there was no swing available to him, Hazlewood bowled the right lengths and took full advantage of the extra bounce on offer.
He broke the spine of New Zealand with his cross-seam deliveries and took wickets at regular intervals. Hazlewood also took two crucial wickets against England but unfortunately, his side’s dreadful batting and bouts of rain meant that the Aussies failed to reach the knockout stages.The 26-year-old bowled at an average of just 15.77 along with an economy of just over 5.
In an event where captain Steve Smith described their attack with the ball as "one of the worst bowling displays", it was Josh Hazlewood who deserved to go unscathed from that criticism.
#4 Adil Rashid (England)
England won the first game against Bangladesh with ease but the biggest and only critique that Eoin Morgan received in that match was dropping Adil Rashid from the playing eleven. England soon brought him into the fray and the leggie did not disappoint. In the next three games, Rashid took seven wickets at an economy of just 4.73.
In a fast paced tournament which was entirely dominated by the pacers, Rashid managed to fly under the radar which helped him to escape the limelight and work on his strengths. Batsmen tried to attack him in the middle overs, looking to score some quick runs but this worked exactly in Rashid's favour as his wrong ones combined with his deception in pace was too much to handle for some.
Rashid brought stability to this England line-up which was all about their gung-ho approach to the 50 over format.
#3 Bhuvneshwar Kumar (India)
India's spearhead, Bhuvneshwar Kumar came into the Champions Trophy in sublime form. He had a memorable IPL with Sunrisers Hyderabad and he carried that form into the mega event in England. Though his best weapon (swing) was not available to him in these conditions, Bhuvi made up for that with his immaculate line and length.
He did not go wicketless in any of the five games that India played and finished the tournament having bagged seven wickets. At times, the 27-year-old was deadly at the start but his most crucial interventions came in the death overs where his calm head combined with his deadly yorkers made life difficult for the opposition.
In the final against Pakistan, Kumar was the only bowler who looked unfazed by the onslaught on display as he kept it nice and simple.
#2 Junaid Khan (Pakistan)
Junaid was brought predominantly as a cover for Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz into this competition. However, after Riaz broke his ankle against India, the left armer came into the picture in what was a beautiful turn of events for the bowler and his country.
Khan bowled with pace, accuracy and more importantly, he reverse-swung the ball in the late overs to kerb the scoring rate and pick up crucial wickets. reverse swung the ball in the late overs to kerb the scoring rate and pick up crucial wickets.
The 27-year-old Swabi grabbed eight wickets in the tournament and was at his ultimate best against England in the semis. Junaid Khan was the fulcrum around which Mohammad Amir and Hassan Ali wrecked havoc as without the smiling man from Swabi, the Greens would have struggled to lift the crown.
#1 Hassan Ali (Pakistan)
In each ICC event, stars are born who shine brightly for their countries and establish themselves as a force to reckon with. The 2017 Champions Trophy will be remembered for giving cricket a Pakistani bowler who can shoulder the bowling attack alongside the ferocious Mohammad Amir coming years. Hassan Ali was the MVP of this tournament as he took home a massive 13 wickets in five games - the joint highest in the history of the tournament.
Hassan was brought as a third/fourth change by Sarfraz Ahmed who used him shrewdly throughout the course of the event. His lateral movement broke the spine of South Africa and England as he turned out to be Pakistan's go-to guy.
The pacer took his wickets in the first over of his spells as Hassan proved to be the catalyst for this beautiful underdog story of Pakistan. Hassan Ali injected aggression into this sedate lineup of the Greens as his celebrations and his fielding depicted a rise of a new aggressive Pakistan cricket team.