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Champions again after 24yrs

Pakistan were just a shot away from winning the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship on Monday, writes Amol Karhadkar.

cricket Updated: Sep 25, 2007 01:20 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Hindustan Times

When Pakistan needed 54 runs off the last four overs with six batsmen back in the pavilion, India would have thought they had the match. However, such is this fascinating game that when S Sreesanth accepted Misbah-ul-Haq's catch in the last over, Pakistan were just a shot away from winning the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship on Monday.

Misbah and Sohail Tanvir's five sixes in a space of 10 balls brought Pakistan right back into the match and at one stage they needed 20 off 12 with two wickets in hand. However, R P Singh, the pick of the Indian bowlers, brought India back as he conceded only seven runs in his over while picking up the wicket of Umar Gul.

When Joginder Sharma was handed the ball for the last over for the second time in as many matches, Pakistan needed 13 off six. The first ball was a super-wide, a result of nerves. Joginder bounced back with a dot ball. Then Misbah hoicked him over long-off for a six.

With six off four needed, Pakistan were almost there. Misbah, who had failed to score the winning run after tying the game against India in the group stage, then exposed his stumps and tried to scoop Joginder over short fine leg. To India's relief, the ball looped in the air and Sreesanth took the catch. After the run fest in the opening match of the tournament at the Wanderers, 157 might not have seemed as a sufficient total at the end of India's innings.

However, India, watched by Shah Rukh Khan, among others, still had an upper hand because of three reasons. One, Pakistan were under pressure since they were chasing. Two, India had finished their innings on a high. And three, the wicket was not as flat as the one for the South Africa-West Indies opener.

Early wickets were the key and RP Singh did just that. He first forced Mohammad Hafeez to open the face and find Robin Uthappa in the slips in the first over and in his next cleaned up Kamran Akmal, who was promoted to No. 3.

Then Irfan Pathan, playing for the first time with his sibling Yusuf in an international match, broke the back of the Pakistan middle-order with an exceptional spell of 4-0-16-3. After losing Hafeez and Akmal, Imran Nazir cut loose and smashed 33 off 14. However, Uthappa's direct hit from mid-off to the striker's end saw the back of Nazir and it was time for Irfan to take over.

He did it superbly. Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik were mainly on the lookout for singles. But Pathan sent Malik and danger man Shahid Afridi back in one over to snatch the control away from Pakistan.

First Published: Sep 25, 2007 01:17 IST