We were thumped in the warm up games against India and South Africa. We crashed to a defeat against England. We started the tournament as one of the most out of sorts team. (Even with the Aussies being dumped out in the first round).
Our batting line up was threateningly out of order. Our fielding was horrible. But then, we returned. Pakistan’s T20 Campaign was reborn. All with our do or die match against New Zealand. Gul returned world record T20 bowling figures of 5 wickets for just 6 runs. Remarkable feat. Afridi took a stunner of a catch. Not only was this beyond your average Pakistan fielding expectations but it was actually along the standards of the Proteas fielding.
We marched on to the Semi Final. We were to play South Africa, the tournament favorites. One of the only 2 unbeaten sides (Sri Lanka being the other). Even with our improved performances, everyone had written us off against South Africa. No way. Even with the proteas being the proverbial chokers of the big stage… it just didn’t seem plausible with the way they were going.
Game Time – South Africa had us at 28 – 2. Akmal had departed after a handy 23 off 15 ( or something like that ) and the young Shahzaib let the nerves of a 19 year olds first ever semi final against a team like SA get to him. Enter Boom Boom Afridi. Fairing low on the batting scale throughout the tournament with only glimpses of slight hope in the previous 2 matches, Afridi hammered a 34 ball 50 to put Pakistan in a pole position to set up a big total. But SA pulled it back. We were restricted to just 149.
Pressure on for our bowling. Kallis and Smith took it to 40 in 5.5 overs before Aamir C&B Smith. Then once again.. enter Boom Boom Afridi. 2 quick wickets of Gibbs and AB and a tight spell with figures of 4 overs 2 wickets and 16 runs. Brilliant once again with the bowl. From then on … Pakistan were more or less the more comfortable team in the match. The runs were squeezed courtesy once again of not only Afridi but also Ajmal and Gul. Things once again went according to plan. Apart from the final over and the one erratic decision of a Fawad Alam over… we were in the driving seat.
Today was not a case of South Africa choking on the big stage. It was more a case of Pakistan beating them. It was a case of the Art of cricket beating the Science of cricket.
We are in the final once again of the T20. We either face the Windies or Sri Lanka. Whoever it is…. the signs are there….. The mercurial Pakistan have returned. At least for now. On our day…we can be lions!! GO PAKISTAN! GO AFRIDI! GO GUL! This cup is ours for the taking!