x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Pakistan end 10-year hurt

Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq exorcised the ghosts of their 1999 World Cup final defeat by guiding Pakistan to the World Twenty20 title at Lord's.

LONDON // Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq exorcised the ghosts of their 1999 World Cup final defeat by guiding Pakistan to the World Twenty20 title at Lord's. The pair of all-rounders were the only two survivors from the side which capitulated to Australia in the 50-over showpiece at cricket's traditional headquarters a decade ago. Both were intent on erasing that anguish, and they were the major influences as the Pakistanis overwhelmed an off-key Sri Lanka side, claiming an eight-wicket victory.

This was a highly-charged encounter, coming as it did three months after the Sri Lanka team were attacked on their way to the ground during a Test match in Lahore. The sides had already met once in the competition, in a Super Eights match, ahead of which the two sides stood together for the national anthems in a show of solidarity. This time, all sentiment was left at the Grace Gate. After the anthems, tension filled the air, and it soon became apparent the Sri Lankan batsmen were feeling it acutely.

By the second over they were reeling at two for two, which soon became 32 for four. Critically, their two best batsmen in the competition, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene, had contributed a mere single between them. At that point, Younus Khan, the Pakistan captain, will have been thankful he lost the toss. The last time Pakistan played in a major final here, in 1999, Wasim Akram inexplicably opted to bat on a dewy morning, with the great Glenn McGrath leading the line for the opposition.

Everyone was home early that day, with Pakistan on the receiving end of a hiding from Australia, prompting much effigy-burning back at home. Younus was spared that fate when his opposite number, Kumar Sangakkara, opted to have first use. Razzaq was the main destroyer as Pakistan quickly made the Sri Lankan captain's decision look a foolhardy one. The all-rounder, who was a late addition to the squad to cover injury, after being given permission to play when he severed his links to the Indian Cricket League, picked up three wickets with the new ball. Afridi, was unusually blunt with the ball, but did strike with the final ball of his four over allocation, bowling Isuru Udana.

As has become the norm in this tournament, the stands throbbed with Pakistani support. One of the ubiquitous hand-written placards read: "India, where are you?" They had plenty of reason to crow at that stage, but Sangakkara just about kept the Sri Lankans afloat with a masterful half-century. They tottered on to 121 in 19 overs, and when Angelo Mathews, the fine young all-rounder, took the final over for 17 Sri Lanka settled on a defendable 138 for six.

Once Kamran Akmal set the Pakistan reply off to a flier, the stage was left open for the Pathan icon, Afridi, who promptly helped himself to a second successive half-century to seal victory with eight balls to spare. @Email:pradley@thenational.ae