x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE's gift to Pakistan

Younus Khan, the Pakistan captain, has spent much of this World Twenty20 talking down the pressures on his side.

LONDON // Younus Khan, the Pakistan captain, has spent much of this World Twenty20 talking down the pressures on his side. This version is just for fun, and his players are treating it as such, he said. Now that they are through to tomorrow's final, however, the perspective has changed. All of a sudden, the burden of satisfying 160 million cricket fans is weighing heavily again, after they beat South Africa by seven runs on Thursday.

It is a motivational force, according to Younus. "This World Cup is everything to us," he said, after his side booked their place at Lord's following a heroic display by the all-rounder Shahid Afridi. "We know it will give a big lift to everyone back home if we can win this competition." No matter the result tomorrow, just reaching this far has been a triumph for a side who have been starved of international cricket of late.

Afridi, who scored fine 51 and took two wickets for just 16 runs off his four overs in the semi-final success over South Africa, said his side had gleaned confidence in beating Australia in the UAE recently. They are likely to play more cricket in the Emirates in the foreseeable future, with sides unlikely to return to strife-torn Pakistan for some time yet. "We are suffering from everything in Pakistan, and everyone knows about all the fighting - a lot of fighting," added the captain, Younus.

"If we can lift the cup, it will provide great cheer for the people. In Twenty20 cricket it is all about things coming together at the right time. I have match-winners I can call upon like Afridi and Umar Gul, who is improving every day. "We have been slow starters in this competition - but suddenly we are in the final." Pakistan are likely to have a full squad to pick from for the final. Gul, whose death bowling has been a feature of their advance, suffered a worrying bang on the head after falling over attempting a catch against South Africa.

However, the in-form fast bowler recovered well enough after being treated on the field to bowl three miserly overs in the closing stages of the semi-final win. He finished with figures of none for 19. @Email:pradley@thenational.ae