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Pakistan Cricket is currently going through rough times just before the start of the mega event, T20 World Cup 2021. It is not the first time, though. On 21st June 2009, Pakistan won their maiden T20 World Cup title, 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 back to 2007. It was the inaugural edition. And it was the final when 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. Many considered that the final and that too against India could not have come at a better time for Pakistan and that they should have won it. But what happened two years later, no one thought how big the 2009 edition would be for Pakistan.
The Start of the Exile
Later, in February 2009, Sri Lanka toured Pakistan for three ODIs and two Tests. Sri Lanka had already won the ODI series 2-1 while the first Test match 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 Lanka team was then taken to the stadium and airlifted from the pitch via helicopter, and immediate arrangements were made for the Sri Lankan team to return to Colombo on the next available flight. 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 for cricket. They lost their rights to host the 2011 World Cup.
Slow Progress to Start 2009 T20 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. They won by 82 runs and qualified for “Super 8s”, grouped with Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and Ireland.
Pakistan faced Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans won the group game by 19 runs. The men in green then 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.
The Shaheens 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. He and Malik’s 34 took Pakistan to 149-4.
The team 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’ batsmen AB de Villiers and Herschelle Gibbs. South Africa’s dream run came to an end as they lost the game by 7 runs.
The People’s Final: T20 World Cup 2009
The Lord’s hosted the big final. Who expected that it would be Pakistan and Sri Lanka? Two teams were involved in the most horrible incident in cricket three months ago. 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 sank 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. He counter-attacked while Malik supported. Finally, at the penultimate over, they needed 1 off 9 balls. Afridi got a leg bye and Pakistan won the game by 8 wickets to clinch their maiden title.
A Gift Coming at the Right Time
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 of losing the 2011 world cup hosting rights, would go on and win the final?
The Men in Green 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 the Test match three months ago and in this tournament, said that “it’s a gift and it had come at the right time” after everything happened. And it did come at the right time.