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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Afridi, Razzak guide Pakistan to their maiden T20 World Cup title in troubled times

Pakistan's Shahid Afridi
©Reuters

June 21, 2009 - Just three months after the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore jolted world cricket, the Pakistan cricket team won the 2009 T20 World Cup to bring the focus back on cricket.

 

The story began two years ago in September, 2007. In the final of the inaugural T20 World Cup, Misbah-ul-Haq was just six runs away from taking Pakistan to the first-ever T20 World Cup Trophy. On the third ball of the final over, bowled by India's Joginder Sharma, Misbah was down on his knees in an attempt to scoop the ball over short fine leg. With the ball going straight up in the air and ending in Sreesanth's bread basket, he remained on his knees for quite a while before finally trudging off the field.

Pakistan had almost reached the finish line and faltered at the most crucial juncture. Two years later, when they found themselves in the final of another T20 World Cup, they knew the pain of faltering.

By then, world cricket had been jolted by a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team just three months before this final in Lahore. Hence, Pakistan were fighting a dual battle. The endeavour was not only to take the silverware home but also reiterate the strength of Pakistan cricket amidst all the trouble.

Pakistan's ride to the final had been far from smooth. They were beaten by England by a massive margin of 48 runs in their first match of the tournament and suffered another 19-run loss at the hands of Sri Lanka. 

But, once they beat New Zealand by 6 wickets, the Men in Green picked up pace with a 39-run victory against Ireland and 7-run win against South Africa in the first semi-final.

 

 

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, had been quite consistent with a six-wicket victory against Australia, a 15-run win against West Indies and a 19-run win against Pakistan. A 99-run win against Ireland, a 48-run win against New Zealand and a 57-run win against West Indies in the semi-final helped them sail smoothly. 

Having reached the final unbeaten and defeated Pakistan in the group stage, Sri Lanka were the favourites to win the trophy. However, the tone was set early on by a 17-year-old Mohammad Amir who troubled Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sri Lanka's highest scorer in the tournament and the Man of the Series, with short-pitched deliveries in the first over.

Dilshan, who had been precise with the execution of his scoop shot throughout the World Cup, tried it again in the first over itself, that brought about his dismissal. A calm and collected unbeaten 64-run hand from Kumar Sangakkara took Sri Lanka to 138.

The bowling hero for Pakistan was Abdul Razzaq, who was returning from the ICL and was not named in the Pakistan squad initially. He was called after Yasir Arafat was injured and the all-rounder didn't disappoint on the big day.

Kamran Akmal, who was Pakistan's top run scorer in the tournament with 188 runs from just 7 matches, led the charge with a rapid 37. Shahid Afridi then played one of the more mature knocks of his career. Afridi remained unbeaten on 54 off 40 deliveries, going at a strike rate of 135 and cracked the chase to perfection, keeping pace with the required run rate.

Ramiz Raja, member of the 1992 squad which won Pakistan their first World Cup, rated the win higher than the one against England in Melbourne 17 years ago. "It's a major turnaround in a sense that over the last six to eight months whatever has happened in Pakistan, it has sent wrong messages. Nobody was rating this team, but the way they have made a comeback there's no example in our sporting history."

You could see what it meant for the nation when Afridi embraced non-striker Shoaib Malik in the middle of Lord's after hitting the winning runs. The victory stood for much more than just another piece of silverware.

 

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