Pakistan v Sri Lanka, ICC World Twenty20 final, Lord's June 21, 2009

Cornered tigers roar once again


A Pakistan with momentum is a beast that cannot be contained. England discovered that fact to their cost in 1992 at Melbourne, when Imran Khan's cornered tigers sprung at their throats to seize the country's first major global title. And now, a generation later but in a campaign of distinct and glorious parallels, Sri Lanka have also sampled the unstoppable alchemy that occurs when cricket's most emotional and temperamental participants find a way to meld their ambitions to their deeds.

It doesn't always end up this way. Two years ago against India, in the inaugural World Twenty20 final in Johannesburg, Pakistan blew their chance for glory when Misbah-ul-Haq choked on his emotions at the end of a stunning match-turning counterattack, and chose the wrong ball to flick over fine leg. And then, of course, there was Pakistan's last appearance in the 50-over World Cup final, against Australia right here at Lord's in 1999, when the conviction in the performance and the margin in the result - eight wickets - exactly mirrored today's effect and upshot.

In fact, it is a decade and a day since Pakistan's demolition at the hands of Australia, and only two players remain from that match. Abdul Razzaq bowled two overs that day for 13, having limped to 17 from 51 balls while batting at No. 3; Shahid Afridi flogged two fours in 16 balls, and wasn't called upon to put his legspin into practice. Ten years and a thousand memories later, Razzaq and Afridi rose to the needs of the hour and turned themselves into the game's critical performers. Like the identities of the teams in this poignant final, it was a detail that can only have been scripted by the fates.

"Me, Shahid and Razzaq, we were chatting with the guys: 'Please this time we will hold our nerves and make our final touch'," said Younis, who added how surprised he had been by the maturity of Afridi's batting. "He took singles," he said in admiration of a man who added calculation to his aggression, and paced the chase to perfection. Two lusty swipes into the stands thrilled a packed Lord's, but not half as much as the scruffy leg-bye with which the title was sealed. Rare is the Pakistan team that puts substance over style, but when it occurs, the overall effect is electrifying.

As for Razzaq, he had his own reasons to impress - his omission from the last World Twenty20 in South Africa was the catalyst for his defection to the ICL, which in turn led to his two-year exile from international cricket. He cut through the red tape last month, but only returned as a replacement for the injured Yasir Arafat last week. Nevertheless, he slipped effortlessly into his time-honoured utility role, this time as an under-rated old hand to balance the youthful aggression of Wasim Akram's acolyte, Mohammad Aamer. After nine deliveries of the final, old and young had claimed a pair of ducks between them. And those lead weights of expectation had been alchemised into gold.

Both the captain and his Man of the Match hail from the troubled North West Frontier Province, and Afridi himself from the Khyber Agency, the symbolic frontline of Pakistan's War on Terror. Chaos can seem at times to be embedded in the Pakistani DNA, but as both men showed in their performances in this tournament, it does not have to be this way

Younis has now stepped aside from Twenty20 cricket, much as Imran Khan bowed out on a high in 1992. For all his quiet insistence that this competition lacks the prestige of the 50-over World Cup, he knows that he and his players have achieved something wonderful, and every bit as lasting as the memories forged by Imran, Miandad, Wasim and Mushtaq, way back in the mists of time.

"I'm the second Khan winning a World Cup for Pakistan, so I'm very proud of my Khans," said Younis. "This is my dream. I dreamed all the time of lifting the World Cup. My thinking in all my career is that I will be remembered for a team like 1992. I was not in the Imran Khan team, and this is a dream come true. I'm really happy. Though this World Cup is Twenty20, at least we won our second World Cup. This is a gift to our whole nation."

He is not wrong. To get a sense of how much Pakistan needed this victory, you have to look beyond the bedlam in the stands at Lord's where a shimmer of bouncing green shirts gave a surface-level glimpse of the euphoria, and instead burrow deep into the parks and gullies of Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshawar, where a nation starved of joy has been given the timeliest succour. It is arguable, in fact, that there has been no more timely sporting victory since a newly unified South Africa won the Rugby World Cup back in 1995.

Where Francois Pienaar's Springboks drew a newly unified nation ever more tightly together, the achievement of Younis's men has been to help slow the fragmentation of a state that is rapidly being considered by the world at large to have failed. Both the captain and his Man of the Match hail from the troubled North West Frontier Province, and Afridi himself from the Khyber Agency, the symbolic frontline of Pakistan's War on Terror. Chaos can seem at times to be embedded in the Pakistani DNA, but as both men showed in their performances in this tournament, it does not have to be this way.

"If you see the whole nation, where law and order is not good, we are from them," said Younis. "How can we be consistent? With these kind of things going for us, if you see our cricket it is all the time suffering from a lot of things. After that we are still winning the World Cup. It is a great achievement for us. I am requesting to all of the countries you must come to Pakistan. Everybody knows law and order is not good but it is not our fault."

For the moment, any prospect of cricket resuming in Pakistan is futile, despite the joy of this occasion and the hope for the future that it generates. But in the shorter term, what we witnessed at Lord's today was the will of a troubled nation to pull in the same direction. From the fight within the team to the reaction around the stands, it was clear how much the notion of Pakistan still means. Next summer, the prospect exists of England hosting their "home" Test series against Australia. Today was a taster of the euphoria that would bring. It must be allowed to happen.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Farhan on June 22, 2009, 20:53 GMT

    I'm a Bangladeshi fan. After Bangladesh, Pakistan is my favorite. You know, I'm not the only fan of Pakistan here. You can't believe the ecstasy, the happiness of general Bangladeshi people after the win. We were near to mad. Apart from all the common feelings like brothers, Muslims...bla bla, I like the Pakistan team for their unpredictability. I mean, it's not fun when the result is predictable. Yes, Pakistan looses game to teams like Ireland but they can win a world cup when their coach, their heartiest supporters or even a single commentator can imagine that.

    I think that's the beauty of it. I bet you, Mr. Shahid Khan Afridi needs no form at all. It's, when he thinks that I'm going to win for Pakistan, he does it. There are no bowler in this earth who can get him, if he doesn't want to submit himself.

    I can tell you one thing, Cricket will reign for this type of cricketers, who born once in a millennium. People will come witness how much they can produce from absolute 'nothing'

  • hari on June 22, 2009, 16:55 GMT

    @ Pakistani fans Hi, im an indian ... and its hard to explain the emotion that i felt to see my brothers win it. Amidst all the chaos and problem between our nation, there is no denying we are brothers. im glad you guys have won the cup. You really deserved it.. and thanks for showing that sub continent teams can still smack south african spinners!! ( :-) :-) )... @ Adarsh Yes, if not for the partition we would be the best team. australia would never have dominated. imagine this line up. Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Inzamam ul Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Anil Kumble,Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed. .. WOW.. i mean WOW

  • Sri on June 22, 2009, 14:53 GMT

    Continuation to my prev comment: The pakistani team gave a great opportunity to believe in the power of unity and team work. I respect Allah as much as I respect Eeshwar. But take some concrete steps to rebuild your nation for good(I am the first one to admit we that we are not a perfect nation, no one is, but I can proudly say we did well in the last 50 years and are on the right path). Kick the religious fanatics out, annihilate the taliban/al-qaeda/LeT etc either Afridi style or Gandhi style.. you have to do it by yourself, as a people, there is not much others can do from outside, than offer support. And for God's sake find a stable govt/democracy, you guys have the ability, just do it. Just like the powerful lawyers lobby, there can a powerful student lobby or activist lobby with a die-hard positive attitude to rebuild the nation no matter what. China is expected to overtake the U.S by 2027. India won't be too far behind, and I don't want my beloved neighbors to fall behind as wel

  • Sri on June 22, 2009, 14:43 GMT

    Kaushik has said exactly what most of us Indians want to say to our Pakistani bros. I will add a little bit more. Lets not waste this opportunity to keep the brotherhood and spirit alive. We know that the majority of us want long-lasting peace, harmony and economic prosperity on both sides of the border. We know that the majority of us hate terrrorism in any part of the world, in any shape, way or form. But unfortunately, its the crooked rich, powerful, influential minority that always seems to have the upper hand, and achieves its purpose on the divide and rule philosophy. To be continued...

  • fahad on June 22, 2009, 14:39 GMT

    To my Indian brothers on this thread, your graciousness warms our hearts today ! Indeed these terrorists who want to destroy everything that we share can try everything, but cannot crush our spirits. I wish India had stayed in the tournament till the end and made it even more exciting, but inshAllah next time. As for the srilankan fans, i know dissappointment can be bitter, but it was a wonderful effort from sangakarra and his team. Yours is a courageous and colorful team but this cup was destined to be Pakistan's. To those who are talking about best of three finals, when was a world cup ever decided that way ?? You think India in 1983, Pakistan in 1992, and Srilanka in 96 would have won if it was a best of three final ? Playing on the big stage in a do or die game is what makes these elite tournaments what they are ! Pakistan were the deserving winners, having beaten the two best unbeaten teams in the semi and the final.

  • Qaisar on June 22, 2009, 13:34 GMT

    Pakistan needed that vitory because there was conspiracy going on to eliminate cricket from Pakistan and make it alone in the cricket world.Pakistan was suffering from terrorism and nation,s morale was needed to boost urgently.Cricket team has done this remarkable job and united pakistan nation and filledtheir hearts with spirit and will.they made the reason for the people to dance living in heat in the camps in troubled areas.This win showed the fighting spirit and determination of paistani lions.They defeated strong teams like south africa and sri lanka comprehensively.Younis khan guys defeated all conspiracy against pakistan cricket from neighbour country.I did not see the pakistani nation happy like that before.Every one chanting in streets PAKISTAN ZINDABAD in all over the country.We r proud to be Pakistani.Dil dil pakistan.

  • banibrata on June 22, 2009, 13:31 GMT

    UNBIAS-MOHOMADS...hey,do you remember how overwhelmingly srilanka was thrashed in the tournament in the australia just prior to the 1996 world cup?if best of three finals were held,your team would have been mightily thrashed.but did anyone including the aussies said anything like that then?so please just watch out for your sentiment!

  • Jack on June 22, 2009, 11:09 GMT

    India should learn how to play cricket under pressure from Pakistan. Apart from Australia, Pakistan under Imran Khan used to be the only teams who enjoyed playing under pressure. But after this win Pakistan have again entered in to the big league. India won the T20 world cup in 2007 largely because there was no pressure on them and the Indian public did not expect anything from them. But when they were expected to win they showed their true colours. This win is even more special and satisfying for Pakistan as they lost out in the final of the last world cup. To come to the final again and winning the cup shows the true class and temperament of this Pakistan team. Champions are those who thrive under extreme conditions and adversity. Younis Khan has proved to be a superb captain and master tactician by sending Afridi at the top of the order and by targeting Dilshan with short pitch bowling. I salute the Pakistan team for their incredible achievement.

    Suresh Krishnan

  • Ankit on June 22, 2009, 10:10 GMT

    Awesome guys..u have done overall exceptional performance by the team..there were few hiccups but it does show if u r the world champions..i have always been a great fan of the pakistani side..esp was gr8 to seem him back.there shud not b ny religion gap to support the teams n neither shud one feel shy in doin so...nyways congrats again..great captaincy younis...u really showd the character.......

  • Omar on June 22, 2009, 10:01 GMT

    We do get knocked down, but we get up again like heroes. There's no one who's gonna keep a high spirited Pakistan team down.

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