No. 49

Pakistan win the World Twenty20

When it all came together, thrillingly, dangerously, solidly, for a team, a country, that needed it badly

Osman Samiuddin

November 22, 2009

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Shahid Afridi celebrates after hitting the winning run, as Lasith Malinga looks on, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, ICC World Twenty20 final, Lord's, June 21, 2009
Afridi seals it: a fleeting image, to be captured forever Tom Shaw / © Getty Images
Related Links
Players/Officials: Shahid Afridi
Series/Tournaments: ICC World Twenty20
Teams: Pakistan
Other links: 50 Magic Moments

London, 21 June 2009

There were so many things to admire in Pakistan's run to the World Twenty20 title. Foremost there were players excelling - Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul, Mohammad Aamer - in a way that you would not find anywhere else.

But there was also this beautiful sense of watching something quite special being put together, of random, disparate pieces coming together at just the right moment, doing just the right thing and moving on. It's a very Pakistani kind of momentum: they might not do all three disciplines well enough all the time, but sometimes, for periods, they excel in everything.

Just watching them build it was fascinating enough. At every moment it was doomed to failure as well: Afridi saying that he played every match as if it was his last was fitting, for the whole thing was always on edge, horrific, thrilling, fragile and solid at once.

Afridi's catch to dismiss Scott Styris - in itself a supremely primal and athletic feat - was the moment where it all turned; inconsistent before, Pakistan sniffed something. Afridi, Younis Khan, Abdul Razzaq, the old heads who had been on such rides before, took hold of the beast as best they could and rode it to the end. Of course in the broader context of what was happening in Pakistan, and also to its cricket, and that it came only a few months after the Lahore attacks, gave the win a worldlier meaning. This wasn't just a sporting victory.

Now, in hindsight, it feels like we were all watching one of those human-pyramid record attempts, where men climb up slowly and carefully, always in peril. They make it, but it's a fleeting image, to be snapped quickly to capture forever one pure moment of joy and elation, before it all inevitably comes apart again. Afridi standing at the Lord's non-striker's end, having completed the leg-bye to seal it, helmet in hand, sheathed in sweat, arms aloft and legs wide: here was that one image.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.

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