They’ve done it. After 16 days of high-octane, all-action cricket, the world has new T20 Champions — Pakistan.
An eight-wicket win over an off-colour Sri Lanka in the World T20 final at Lord’s provided Pakistan, the team and the country, a reason to smile. The win will also have helped erase the nightmares of the last final where they lost a tight game to India.
Unpredictability has always been one of Pakistan’s biggest banes, and not too many were convinced of their ability to repeat the cricket they played in their semifinal win over South Africa. But skipper Younis Khan had said on match eve, this tournament meant ‘everything’ to his players and everyone would be up for it.
And it looked like that, too. The Pakistani pace trio of Mohammad Aamer, Abdul Razzaq and Umar Gul ran through the Sri Lankan top order, removing the big three of Sanath Jayasuriya, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene within the first six overs. Planning is not something readily associated with a Pakistan performance, but judging with the almost incessant use of the short ball to dismiss Dilshan and the approach of playing Ajantha Mendis like a medium pacer off the pitch, the team thinktank seem to have wracked their brains to achieve this win.
Sri Lanka ended the powerplay at 34/4, with skipper Kumar Sangakkara trying his best to plug the leaks in his ship.
Desperate not to lose another wicket, Sangakkara decided to cut out all risks as he and Chamara Silva put on 35 runs in six overs. That provided the innings with some sort of momentum for the first time and a total of 120 was not looking as impossible as it had once.
Angelo Matthews and his long handle capitalised on the little hope of a good score his skipper had provided during his stay in the middle, smashing 35 off 24 balls to provide an explosive end to the innings.
Possessing the best, most varied bowling attack in the tournament, Sri Lanka would have given themselves a fair chance of bowling Pakistan out. It, however, wasn’t to be for the Islanders. Kamran Akmal played some breathtaking shots, none more than the on one-knee smash over midwicket off Mendis, to put on a 48-run opening stand with Shahzaib Hasan and snuffed out any chances Sri Lanka harboured of quick wickets at the top.
Though they removed both Akmal and Hasan, Sri Lanka did not do enough to trouble the Pakistanis on the day.
Shahid Afridi put the finishing touches on the win with an unbeaten 40-ball 54 and gave a nation besieged with terrorism and civil war something to smile about.
Sri Lanka: Dilshan c Shahzaib Hasan b Mohammad Aamer 0, Jayasuriya b Abdul Razzaq 17, Mubarak c Shahzaib Hasan b Abdul Razzaq 0, Sangakkara not out 64, Jayawardene c Misbah-ul-Haq b Abdul Razzaq 1, Silva c Saeed Ajmal b Umar Gul 14, Udana b Shahid Afridi 1, Mathews not out 35;
Extras (lb-3, w-2, nb-1) 6; Total (for 6 wkts; 20 overs) 138.
Bowling: Aamer 4-1-30-1, Razzaq 3-0-20-3, Afridi 4-0-20-1, Ajmal 4-0-28-0, Malik 1-0-8-0, Gul 4-0-29-1
Pakistan: Akmal st Sangakkara b Jayasuriya 37, Hasan c Jayasuriya b Muralitharan 19, Afridi not out 54, Malik not out 24; Extras (lb-2, w-2, nb-1) 5;
Total (for 2 wkts; 18.4 overs) 139
Fall of wkts: 1-48, 2-63.
Bowling: Mathews 2-0-17-0, Udana 4-0-44-0, Malinga 3.4-0-14-0, Muralitharan 3-0-20-1, Mendis 4-0-34-0, Jayasuriya 2-0-8-1