Twenty20 World Cup 2009 June 18, 2009

Afridi's kiss takes Pakistan to Lord's

Pakistan's talisman was the difference

"I just blew him a kiss," smiled Shahid Afridi, when asked about his on-field exchange with Jacques Kallis. It was a kiss that sent Pakistan to Lord's, as Afridi won an old-fashioned battle of allrounders.

Afridi decided to spread the love as he killed South Africa's chances of lifting this World Cup.

Pakistan's talisman was the difference. A fact agreed upon by both captains, thousands of spectators at Trent Bridge, and millions of viewers at home. Halfway through this tournament Afridi changed his approach to batting. Encouraged by his captain, he has decided to take a couple of sighters instead of launching immediately into a reckless assault.

Younis Khan's greatest trick has been coaxing the best out of his unpredictable matchwinner, especially as they have clashed at times in the past. In the last three games Afridi has produced a complete all-round game, and the results leave Pakistan standing tall.

This was by no means a perfect performance from Pakistan. Some of the batting was slow, especially in the last five overs. But credit should go to South Africa for excellent death bowling, and the pitch blunted the most extravagant strokeplay.

In the field, Younis introduced Fawad Alam at a perplexing moment, and misjudged the number of overs for Umar Gul. But these gambles paid off for Pakistan's captain, fortune was with him.

Yet Younis has made his own luck. He has encouraged a determined and aggressive attitude, something that caught South Africa off guard. In the past, Pakistan have struggled against South Africa, largely because Pakistan have been mentally beaten before a ball has been bowled. This may be only Twenty20 but Pakistan's attitude made a palpable difference.

Behind his smiles, Younis is determined to win this World Cup for his country and especially for his embattled North West region. He and his team can hold their heads high. They have made hundreds of millions of their fellows very proud. A semi-final berth was a pleasant surprise, a final appearance is beyond expectations.

This is a sweet moment for Pakistan's long-suffering fans, who passionately follow a team that often produces frustration but sometimes conjures magic. Nobody swings more sharply between frustration and magic than Afridi. He epitomises Pakistan cricket.

Today Shahid Afridi was magic. Pakistan fans will hope the spell can last another three days.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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