Pakistan cricket came alive at Lords on Sunday evening in all its unpredictable glory and unrefined exquisiteness. They had come into this tournament burdened by troubles at home and blighted by lack of match practice. They had started their campaign playing as though in shackles,they finished it with a chest-thumping freedom that wouldve seemed more appropriate in the frenzied,drunken stands.
The evening that began with what must be one of the most intimidating overs in Twenty20 history,ended in a flurry of fours and sixes from Shahid Afridis free-spirited blade. In the three-and-a-half hours in between,there were only a few moments when Pakistan flirted with the uncertainty that so typifies their cricket.
And at the end,they had trumped a Sri Lankan team that had been clinical and unbeaten through the tournament by eight wickets a margin of victory that indicated the difference between the teams on the day.
Captain Younis Khan,draped in a Pakistan flag,spoke emotionally at the post-match press conference. He dedicated the win to former coach Bob Woolmer,who died when with the team for the World Cup in the Caribbean. I wish he was sitting here next to me.
Younis,who also announced his retirement from Twenty20 cricket,spoke too of how much this win would mean to his people back home. It is our gift to the people of Pakistan, he said. At the end of the game,the streets of London had exploded in deliriously happy green; imagine then,the streets of Karachi or Lahore.
The fear going into this final was that they would implode,as they did in a final at Lords 10 years ago,almost to the date. Playing Australia for the 1999 World Cup title,they had been bowled out for an embarrassing 132 batting first. They needed,desperately,to hit the ground running this time.
Mohammad Aamer,all of 17,charged in first up and bowled five menacing climbers at Tilakaratne Dilshans ribcage. They rattled the tournaments best batsman and,in attempting a half-pull,half-scoop,he popped one up to short fine-leg.
Abdul Razzaq,the ex-ICL rebel drafted midway through the tournament,then took over. Jehan Mubarak skied one while trying to whip him across the line,Sanath Jayasuriya nicked a short-arm jab on to his stumps,Mahela Jayawardene played a late cut straight to Misbah ul Haq at slip. Four down for 32 became six down for 70: it was Sri Lanka,not Pakistan,who were self-destructing.
Captain,Kumara Sangakkara watched the mayhem from the other end,shaking his head in disbelief at every wicket. He stayed till the end,and in the company of Angelo Mathews,took the total to a respectable 138. Not what he would have wanted winning the toss and batting,but defendable,given his strong bowling attack.
But Pakistan were not going to let this slip,not on this day.
Kamran Akmal thumped boundaries and sixes and ran between wickets like his life depended on it. Shahzaib Hussain struggled at the other end,but as a partnership,they worked their way past the early nerves.
They fell in the space of two overs,but Shahid Afridi,fresh off his single-handed demolition of South Africa,was in the mood again. He started with an uncharacteristic collection of singles,waiting for the right moment to unleash the big hits. Muttiah Muralitharan bore the brunt – going for a massive one over mid-wicket and a regal boundary to extra-cover. Isuru Udana suffered worse – 19 came off the 19th over of the chase.
Two years ago,Pakistan fell short by an agonising five runs against India. Today,they couldve chased many,many more.
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