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

Clinical, professional and un-Pakistani

The win came through a most uncharacteristic performance

In the end there were no theatrics. The glory came with a leg-bye, and with Lasith Malinga appealing for a leg-before. Then there was Shahid Afridi, standing with arms wide open, pointing upwards. As the stadium erupted around him, he stood still, no drama; it was the pose of a winner who had known the inevitability of victory.

The team-mates came charging in; a flag was produced, some of the Pakistani players knelt to kiss the turf, and the stadium was awash with green. Suddenly you noticed that even the stewards were green and were called the green team. Was it always meant to be?

Resolute. Restrained. Mature. Measured. Not in the most bizarre of your dreams would you associate these words with Afridi. But those very words summed up his performance today. He wanted the responsibility, he grabbed it and fulfilled it. And his approach to the game was a microcosm of how Pakistani played the final.

It was a clinical, thought-out and utterly professional display. Very un-Pakistani. Yorkers didn't thud into pads or uproot stumps; there were no magic moments from the spinners, either; and the ball didn't fly over the ropes.

Abdul Razzaq, no more than a trundler, but a canny and grizzled one, did what the unheralded Angelo Mathews had done far more dramatically for Sri Lanka at The Oval a couple of days ago, and once Sri Lanka lost four wickets in the Powerplay, it was a question of keeping the screws tight. And so Pakistan did, until the last over, which produced 17 runs.

On another day, trusting a rookie bowler with the final over could have been a costly mistake, but this was to be Pakistan's day. And for the most part they remained in charge of the game. And from the way the first over was bowled, it was apparent there was a plan.

Tillakaratne Dilshan loomed large over the match. By a distance, he had been the batsman of the tournament, both prolific and quick, inventive and solid. Single-handed he had won Sri Lanka the semi-final, and with their bowling, Sri Lanka were perhaps not looking for a lot more than 150. The weakness of the Pakistan bowling attack, apparently, lay at the top. Would there be a change in tactics? Give Umar Gul an over? Open with Afridi?

Pakistan stuck to the same bowlers. Mohammad Aamer, 17 years and six Twenty20 matches old, was given the new ball. What changed, though, was the method. The first ball was a sharp bouncer, and Dilshan got hurriedly out of the way; the second one hurried him into a cut shot; the third pushed him further back, the fourth could have had him - the attempted pull ricocheted off his body and then caught his bat and could have gone anywhere; and the fifth did - a weak pull spooned up to backward square-leg. A plan only looks well-laid after it has been executed precisely.

Yorkers didn't thud in to the pads or uproot stumps; there were no magic moments from the spinners either; and the ball didn't fly over the ropes

The main threat removed, Pakistan fell back to the percentages. Razzaq removed three; Afridi hurried through his overs, subtly varying his pace - one ball was recorded at 126kph - and length, and mixing them up; Saeed Ajmal, slipped in overs quietly; and Gul arrived to finish the job. A lot has been said that about Gul's ability to reverse the 12-over-old ball, but his success at this format lies in his mastery over line and the ability mix up his length. It was a short ball that got him the wicket in this match.

The chase, of course, belonged to Afridi. He had scored three embarrassing ducks early in the tournament, mostly swiping across the line, and until the semi-finals had earned his spurs bowling. Ahead of the semi-final he had begged for a promotion, and vindicated himself there with a match-winning half century. Here in the final, though, he played perhaps the most responsible innings of his long and frustratingly inconsistent career. When Afridi nudges his third ball to midwicket and scampers two, you instantly become aware that you are watching something different. It turned out to be special.

His first boundary did not come until the 20th ball, when he hoisted Murali for a six and followed up an inside-out drive that went for four. There were seven boundary-less overs while he was at the crease, and in a sudden explosion, he turned the match irrevocably Pakistan's way hitting successive balls from Isuru Udana for six and four.

Like in the first tournament in South Africa, this one was a low-scoring final. It wasn't as dramatic, but it was a simmering, gritty contest won by a team desperate not to miss out once again. It would have had a poignant touch had Misbah-ul Haq, whose fateful scoop cost Pakistan the title the last time, got an opportunity to redeem himself, but that he was not needed reflected Pakistan's mastery over the proceedings.

As the Pakistan team took their victory lap, the public address system belted out "Dil Dil Pakistan", an all-time favourite rock song by Vital Signs, an 80s Pakistan band. Later at the press conference, Younis Khan described the win as a gift to the nation. The cricketers have done their bit to lift a beleaguered country.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Imran on June 23, 2009, 20:07 GMT

    It is the nation that has seen it all. The chaos, the drama, the terror, the sorrow, the happiness, the tears and the smiles but yet again we have risen against time and by the grace of the Al-Mighty the glory is ours. Afridi, razzaq, kamran, malik, younis and all the quys have made us proud. We remember 87' we cherish 92' we have not forgotten '96 we took the nail in '99 but after a decade and trying to forget 2003 and 2007 holding back the memories of 2008 we will always be proud of 2009. We love Pakitan.

  • SYED SHUMAZ on June 22, 2009, 16:01 GMT

    first thanks to all who apreciated the victory.coming to the topic that sampat using the word that UN-PAKISTANI ,well i have a different point of views that all big wins comes in the simpler way, can see the past records there were two mega event won by pakistan in both were pakistan downunder at the initial stage seems to cut off from the tournament and then the whole spirit of the players changes and the win all the games not only this time way back in 1992, pakistan out classed newzealand and england in 1992 world cup s newzealand was unbeaten at that time and alo the england. so its almost like a pakistani way that most unpredictible team in the world can be bowled out on 43 and can almost chase a 350 runs. its happens many times in test odi now as well as in T20 u may flash back to T20 world cup final in 2007 when pakistn starting with a good and then colapse in middle and misbah effort that shows that they will win it and suddenly india wins similarl continued

  • fahad on June 22, 2009, 14:59 GMT

    Hahah wonderfully put sambit ! You are one of my favorite writers. Watching the final, I couldn't believe this is the team I have been religously following for the past 16 years(I was too young to remember 1992). Especially watching afridi bat, it was as if Kallis or younis was playing. Never seen his so responsible ever. Very unpakistani but more heartwarming than it has ever been.

  • SK on June 22, 2009, 13:58 GMT

    I am an Indian fan.

    Congratulations to Pakistan Team! They played better cricket on the semi-finals and finals and deserved to be the champions.

    Pakistani fans, atleast now please stop complaining about Modi and BCCI. It was the pakistani government who were against sending their players to IPL-2 due to the security concerns in India. Just 3 weeks before the tournament only it got moved to SA, by then all the team composisition were already in place and the frachisee owners were not in a position to take players any at that stage. Even most of the australian national players were not in IPL-2 since they were playing in UAE with pak.

    Regarding the Champions Trophy, it is a BCCI managed tournament planned to be held in India. If Pak government can't give permission for IPL, will it give permission for their players to participate in CL? Modi is a business man and he doesn't want any last minute issues like that. Don't forget that all the Pakistan players played in IPL-1.

  • Andy on June 22, 2009, 13:52 GMT

    Well done to Pakistan's most level headed captain since Imran. You could tell the change for Pakistan was that they were not playing against each other, only the opposition! Under Younis's plan, Afridi took up the mantle and ran the semi and the final. How great to see one of the game's most naturally talented players' express himself with ball, bat and in the field. A joy to behold!! And where do you find these new guys - Misbah appeared at the last 20-20 and looked the real deal straight away; Ajmal came from nowhere and amazed me with his accuracy and skill; Shehzad didn't get the scores, but patently has incredible talent and Aamir?? He's only just 17 and is like lightning, where do all these outrageously talented players come from? England has nothing like the level of this talent - more power to you Pakistan!!

  • Rauf on June 22, 2009, 13:48 GMT

    Clinical, professional and Pakistani is how I will put it. This victory is special in so many ways for Pakistan. It's very hard to even compete in an international tournament let alone win it given the state of affairs in Pakistan for last couple of years not to mention everyone refusing to tour Pakistan and less cricket then air on the moon. All the pundits wrote off Pakistan as a second rate team so I am so proud and happy to see Pakistan team flip giant two fingers to all the doubters. Good for Pakistan and good for Pak cricket. Mr. Modi... you can now put the unchampions T20 league without any Pak representation to where the sun doesn't shine. Leave politics out of cricket. Thank you!

  • Shabbir on June 22, 2009, 13:19 GMT

    On the batting front Pakistan performance was very professional. In my opinion the bowling performance (except the way they got Dilshan out) was poor. The wicket of Jaysuriya was pure luck and Jaywardane has himself to blame to got out on a regular outside the off stump delivery. There were many lapses in the field especially giving away singles was a regular feature. Umar Gul was not able to reverse the ball and he relied on useless short pitch deliveries which resulted in some easy pickings by the Lankans. It was quiet sad to see that an amateur like Mathews able to score 35 runs of 24 balls. However, batting was something special and memorable. The approach of Shahzaib and especially Akmal was immaculate, not to lose wicket was the agenda of the day. We should not forget the tireless innings of Shoaib Malik who assured to check the fall of wicket from other end providing opportunity to Afridi to plan his innings accordingly. Overall, its a champion performance by the team.

  • Mahmood on June 22, 2009, 13:19 GMT

    Sambit: Your article was on the button. I think there has been some misunderstanding by some reader with the word "UnPakistani" to describe he performance of the winne, which was Pakistan. In fairness, your choice of word was very appropriate, normally in situation like the Pakistan team found themselves battling it out SENSIBLY for a change is very unlike Pakistani. To state my point from overs 13-17 both Malick & Afridi concentrated on taking sharp singles!. Then there was no rush of blood shots!! from Mr. Afridi. This is really Un-Pakistani pwerformance. Well said Sambit.

  • Arif on June 22, 2009, 13:11 GMT

    I agree to the opinion of farazm79. Yes, the title you chose, is misunderstood by many. and it was bound to be misunderstood.. :D You know, thats what normally happens in response to such choices of words n actions in our subcontinent. May be u should have choosed a diplomatic one. :) that apart I enjoyed reading it. Infact I enjoy reading all of cricinfo articles. and by the ways this is my first post over here on cricinfo, even though I have been regular visitor since last 4 years!

  • raghava on June 22, 2009, 12:54 GMT

    It seems that ssan did not understand what Sambit mean by UnPakistani. Pakistan plays the game in spirit. Unlike Engalnd SA or Oz who plays like machines and accumulate runs and bowls in particular predictabale but highlyperfected way, Pakistan play with heart. Pak always had the talent, but lack consistency because the way they play. On a day they cant be beaten by anyone and the very next days Minnows could show them they are nothing. It is this all or none situation that make Pakistan team so called "unprofessional". This display in the final looked like a professional display. Usually afridi would have been playing at a strike rate of 300. Here he changed his game totally, as is the inexperienced Amir. It sees to me that there was definite allocated role for everyone on that day, which is not usual with Pakistan. They always play thier natural game. Kudos to Pakistan from a core Indian fan.

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