Given the volatile situation in the country, today’s cricket victory should give Pakistanis something to smile about. After defeating the tournament favorites South Africa in the first World Twenty20 semi-final, Pakistan will move on to play either Sri Lanka or the West Indies in the final Sunday. Team captain Younus Khan told reporters after the game, “We are slow starters, we arrived late, didn’t have a lot of practice sessions so there was no pressure on us – but suddenly we are in a good position.” He, along with many people, gave credit to Shahid Afridi, who hit 51 runs, took 2-16 [bowling], and was subsequently awarded man-of-the-match. BBC quoted Afridi as saying, “The captain and the coach [Intikhab Alam] really gave me a good confidence. I asked them to send me in as number three and after that I enjoyed my batting. In the semi-final you don’t have any more chances – this is good for Pakistani cricket.”
This is what the Guardian had to say about Afridi’s performance today:
Afridi’s promotion to No. 3 was Pakistan’s wild card, and his 51 from 34 balls justified it. It has never been possible to ascribe logic to an Afridi innings. There is none. Even before the advent of Twenty20, no matter how serious the circumstances, he was thoroughly recalcitrant. He only averages 15 in 41 Twenty20 matches, and he started scratchily, barely looking at the bowler’s approach initially. But he is a perpetual menace, occasionally contained but never controlled. From the depths of his memory, he summoned what his former coach Geoff Lawson concluded was his ‘best innings for two years.’
It is incredible how sports can unify a country and ignite the national spirit. I am always proud to be Pakistani, but was especially proud today, [a feeling echoed by Pakistanis at home and around the world]. So, it’s been a good day. Pakistan Zindabad, and good luck to our team in the final!