A turn around from a disaster to glory

On 21st June 2009, Pakistan won their maiden World T20 beating Sri Lanka in the final by 8 wickets. But if we look back, it wasn’t very easy at that time.

Let’s go way back in 2007. It was the inaugural edition. And it was the final. Pakistan met their arch-rivals India. 6 runs needed of 4 balls, Misbah tried to scoop it, only to fall in the hands of Sreesanth. The dream was lost.

Two years later, February 2009. Sri Lanka toured Pakistan for three ODIs and two Tests. Sri Lanka had already won the ODI series 2-1 and the first Test was drawn. The second Test, however, was abandoned on day 3. Masked gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus where the driver was killed as five team players were injured. Along with them was reserve umpire Ahsan Raza.

The Sri Lankan team was then taken to the stadium and airlifted from the pitch via helicopters, and immediate arrangements were made for the Sri Lankan team to return to Colombo on the next available flight. The second Test, which was the last scheduled fixture of the tour, was abandoned as a draw.

Things went tough for Pakistan. They lost their rights to host home matches and were forced to find a new venue to host home matches, which UAE became their new home. They lost their rights to host the 2011 World Cup.

Pakistan entered the tournament with a tense atmosphere. They lost their first game against England by 48 runs. But then they faced the Netherlands, whom they defeated England in the opening game. A win by a good margin was required by Pakistan. They won by 82 runs and qualified for “Super 8s”, grouped with Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and Ireland.

Pakistan faced Sri Lanka. The memories of the attack came back. Sri Lanka won the group game by 19 runs. But then they met a very good New Zealand side, who were semi-finalists last tournament. But Pakistan, in particular Umar Gul, had changed their ways. Gul’s 5-6, the first five-wicket haul in Twenty20 international cricket, restricted the kiwis to 99 all out and Pakistan won the game by 4 wickets. From there, they defeated the Irish side by 39 runs to qualify for the semi-finals.

Pakistan met a strong South African side. They were unbeaten throughout the tournament. Pakistan batted first but they were quickly down by 2 wickets for 28 runs. Shahid Afridi came to bat and he played a brilliant knock. Sharing a vital stand with Shoaib Malik, Afridi scored 51 from 34 balls. His and Malik’s 34 took Pakistan to 149-4.

Pakistan was very disciplined in bowling. Apart from JP Duminy’s unbeaten knock 44 and Jacque Kallis’ 64, no South African batsmen went more than 10 runs. Afridi was once again the star as he dismissed two fine Proteas’ batsman AB de Villiers and Herschelle Gibbs. South Africa’s dream run came to an end as they lost the game by 7 runs.

Then the final game at Lord’s. And who expected that it would be Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Two teams who were involved in the most horrible incident in cricket three months ago. Both

teams were in the final. On air, Ian Bishop called it the “People’s final”. Yes it was. What happened three months ago really put both sides apart, especially Pakistan. But this time, it was a game to win the title.

Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat. But the start from Mohammad Amir to dismiss the tournament’s highest run-scorer, Tillakaratne Dilshan set the tone for Pakistan. Sri Lanka found themselves 32-4 as Abdul Razzaq picked the next three wickets. They sunk further at 70-6 by the end of the 13th over. Captain Kumar Sangakkara and young Angelo Mathews made a crucial stand together of 68 and took the team to a respectable total of 138-6.

Pakistan hadn’t won any ICC event since the 1992 world cup. They had a chance in the last tournament of World Twenty20 but they lost. They had another opportunity. They started off well. Kamran Akmal and Shahzaib Hasan gave a fine start. But at the start of the 10th over, both openers were back at the pavilion. Afridi, again at no.3, was joined by Malik and together made the most important stand in their lives. Afridi counter attacked while Malik supported. Finally, at the penultimate over, Pakistan needed 1 off 9 balls. Afridi got a leg bye and Pakistan won the game by 8 wickets to clinch their maiden title.

Who would have thought that two teams who had suffered in the Lahore attack, will meet each other in the final of a major tournament? Who would have thought that Pakistan, who were stripped of their rights to host home matches as well as in danger to lose the 2011 world cup hosting rights, would go on and win the final?

Pakistan had suffered in the last three months before the major tournament and their road to the final wasn’t as easy as it was for Sri Lanka. But winning the major tournament was one of the best moments for Pakistan that ever happened after such an incident.

Younis Khan, who was the captain in both the Test match three months ago and in this tournament, said that “it’s a gift and it had come the right time” after everything that happened.

And it did come at the right time.

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