Pakistan returned to playing yesterday after the doping allegations that stunned world cricket. Being Pakistan - mercurial, brimful of talent, beset by turmoil - they beat Sri Lanka by four wickets in a scintillating match in the Champions Trophy.
Had it been anyone else, the victory would have been improbable. For Pakistan, it was perhaps inevitable. It was their former captain, Imran Khan, who said once that he expected them to fight like cornered tigers. This team did that for their current, stand-in captain, Younis Khan.
Chasing 254 to win at the ground where England had been dismissed for 125 three days earlier, they had 11 balls to spare when Abdul Razzaq almost nonchalantly struck a six over long-off to win the match.
It was hardly a case of normal service resumed. The team were already without their captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq, suspended for bringing the game into disrepute.
Now they were deprived of their two main fast bowlers, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, who were sent home on Monday after failing a drugs test. Another fast bowler, Shabbir Ahmed, is out after he was banned for a year after being deemed to have an illegal action.
Akhtar and Asif tested positive for the performance-enhancing steroid, nandrolone. Younis said: "It's very difficult. In the first 10 overs everybody was nowhere. But after that we managed. We're used to these conditions. Everybody's here to play good cricket, we are keen to win."
Younis refused to answer questions on doping, but there was the distinct sense that the game was extremely concerned. Malcolm Speed, the International Cricket Council's chief executive, urged all member nations to start conducting drug tests. "That way if cricket does have a drug-related problem - and I don't believe it has - we can deal with it."
Tim May, the chief executive of FICA, the international players' association, said that the ICC had not acted quickly enough. "Unfortunately, the game's lethargy may have contributed to two young men ruining their careers," he said.Reuse content