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.