Afridi fires Pakistan to glory

Sri Lanka 138-6 Pakistan 139-2

A tournament that began with dampness and a desperate defeat for England ended, 16 days later, in golden sunshine and a glorious victory for Pakistan. A majority of neutrals may have wanted Sri Lanka to prevail but the beaten finalists of two years ago were not to be denied a second time and they deservedly lifted the World Twenty20 trophy in front of thousands of their green-shirted fans.

Plenty has happened since the hosts lost to the Dutch on a drizzly Friday night a fortnight or so ago, and most of it good. Yet, to begin with, Pakistan were pretty hopeless, losing heavily to England in a group game and then beingwell beaten again, by Sri Lanka, when it came to the Super Eights.

However, rather like Imran Khan’s “cornered tigers” of 1992 World Cupwinning fame, Younus Khan’s team of 2009 found real strength when it mattered.

Bowling first yesterday on a slow pitch, they restricted their opponents to 138 for 6 – a modest total but one which at least gave Sri Lanka more hope than had seemed likely when they were 32 for 4 and then 70 for 6.

But what fast bowler Abdul Razzaq – who was only added to the squad after Yasir Arafat injured himself against England – started by taking three wickets with the new ball, Shahid Afridi effectively finished by slamming 10 runs off two balls from seamer Isuru Udana during the 18th over. Tension was beginning to mount when the man they call “Boom Boom” belted Udana into the crowd at long on. After that, the celebrations could begin in the stands, even if a few more runs were needed in the middle.

Appropriately enough, Afridi – named man of the match for his unbeaten 54 off 40 deliveries – stood with arms aloft at the end as an eightwicket triumph was sealed with eight deliveries to spare.

Minutes later, and to huge roars of approval, Younus took possession of the trophy. Then, while Pakistan’s supporters continued to party, the captain announced his retirement from Twenty20 cricket. “I’m 31 and old now for this type of cricket,” he said, having hinted earlier in the tournament that hewas ready to call time on the shortest form of the game. “And we have a lot of youngsters coming through.

“It was my dream to win a World Cup, like my hero, Imran. Now I’m the second Khan to have done it. Our country needed a victory like this and it is a gift for our whole nation.”

For Sri Lanka, it was a case of so near and yet so far. They had won six matches out of six before the final and another victory yesterday would have been the perfect end to a highly emotional journey made by Kumara Sangakkara and his side since they were targeted by terrorists in Lahore three months ago.

There is little room in sport for sentiment, however, and Pakistan did their job professionally. Kamran Akmal and Shahzaib Hasan launched their reply with a stand of 48 and even the loss of both openers caused little concern once Afridi and Shoaib Malik embarked on a third-wicket stand which yielded 76 runs off 59 deliveries.

Spin kingsAjantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan tried all they knew but this was one task too much even for them.

“We tried our best but we were about 20 runs short,” said Sangakkara, whose unbeaten innings of 64 and unbroken seventh-wicket partnership of 68 with AngeloMathews had raised Sri Lankan spirits.

“It’s always heartbreaking to lose a final,” he added, “but I’m very proud of the team and we’ve had a great tournament.”

Sangakkara’s team have been happiest defending totals. But, from midway through yesterday’s second over, they were struggling to give their bowlers even an inch of room for manoeuvre with Tillekeratne Dilshan, the competition’s leading run-scorer, and promoted big-hitter Jehan Mubarak already back in the hutch without so much as a single between them.

There should be a special Twenty20 honours board for anyone delivering a wicket maiden. Were there one at here, 17-year-old Mohammad Aamer would now have his name on it after starting the final with five dot balls and the scalp of Dilshan, who perished trying to play the type of shot that has brought him so much success over the past fortnight. Aiming to scoop a boundary past his shoulder, he simply top-edged a catch to fine leg.

Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene could not stop the rot, and when both Chamara Silva and Udana perished it seemed as though Sri Lanka might struggle to reach three figures. Thankfully for those in the large crowd who were hoping to see a good contest, Sangakkara and Mathews gave Pakistan a bit of food for thought with their face-saving partnership, but it was never likely to be quite enough.

The same can be said, most probably, of Younus’s plea for the cricket world to resume tours of Pakistan.

“We need home series to motivate our youngsters,” he said. The terrorist attack on Sri Lanka’s team in Lahore may be too fresh in many minds for that to happen just yet

Lord's scoreboard

ICC World Twenty20 – Final

LORD'S (One day): Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by eight wickets

Sri Lanka won toss

SRI LANKA

......... Runs......... 6s......... 4s......... Bls......... Min

T M Dilshan c Hasan b Aamer......... 0......... 0......... 0......... 5......... 2

S T Jayasuriya b Razzaq......... 17......... 1......... 2......... 10......... 17

J Mubarak c Hasan b Razzaq......... 0......... 0......... 0......... 2......... 4

*†K C Sangakkara not out......... 64......... 0......... 7......... 52......... 79

D P M D Jayawardene c M-ul-Haq b Razzaq......... 1......... 0......... 0......... 4......... 6

L P C Silva c Ajmal b Gul......... 14......... 0......... 2......... 19......... 22

I Udana b Afridi......... 1......... 0......... 0......... 5......... 3

A D Mathews not out......... 35......... 1......... 3......... 24......... 31

Extras (lb3 w2 nb1)......... 6

Total (for 6, 20 overs)......... 138

Fall: 1-0, 2-2, 3-26, 4-32, 5-67, 6-70.

Did not bat: S L Malinga, M Muralitharan, B A W Mendis.

Bowling: Mohammad Aamer 4-1-30-1; Abdul Razzaq 3-0-20-3; Shahid Afridi 4-0-20-1; Saeed Ajmal 4-0-28-0; Shoaib Malik 1-0-8-0; Umar Gul 4-0-29-1.

PAKISTAN

......... Runs......... 6s......... 4s......... Bls......... Min

†K Akmal st Sangakkara b Jayasuriya......... 37......... 2......... 2......... 28......... 32

S Hasan c Jayasuriya b Muralitharan......... 19......... 0......... 3......... 23......... 42

Shahid Afridi not out......... 54......... 2......... 2......... 40......... 52

Shoaib Malik not out......... 24......... 0......... 1......... 22......... 42

Extras (lb2 w2 nb1)......... 5

Total (for 2, 18.4 overs)......... 139

Fall: 1-48, 2-63.

Did not bat: *Younus Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Fawad Alam, Abdul Razzaq, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Aamer.

Bowling: A D Mathews 2-0-17-0; I Udana 4-0-44-0; S L Malinga 3.4-0-14-0; M Muralitharan 3-0-20-1; B A W Mendis 4-0-34-0; S T Jayasuriya 2-0-8-1.

Umpires: D J Harper and S J A Taufel.

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