Pakistan’s T20 World Cup fairytale came to an end after losing the final to England at Melbourne Cricket Ground where the same sides clashed thirty years ago with Pakistan winning its first and only 50-over world cup in spectacular fashion. Batting first and setting a below par total of just 137, with just 18 being scored in the last four overs, it seemed the game was lost even before the second innings began. However, Pakistan’s formidable pace attack proved its worth by taking out the deadly Butler-Hales opening duo within the first 6 overs, and putting the pressure back on the English by the 12th over choking them at 84-4 on a seaming wicket.
Luck had played a crucial role in getting Pakistan to the final but not much was available on Sunday, when we needed just a tad more. Shaheen Shah Afridi had some runs to bowl at in his remaining two overs that would make or break the match, but an awkward fall while successfully taking a catch put pressure on his knee and took him out of the attack. Despite trying to continue, he simply couldn’t bowl, managing only one delivery in visible pain and discomfort. While credit goes to Captain Babar Azam and the team of physiotherapists present on the spot to take the wise decision of taking him off to avoid any permanent damage, questions do arise about his fitness and whether or not he should have been allowed to join the squad in the first place, straight from rehabilitation into the tournament without any prior match practice.
There are some key takeaways from this campaign that Pakistan should be proud of but also many mistakes it must learn from. There is no denying that we are one of the best bowling sides in world T20 cricket at the moment with a lethal and effective pace attack paired with quality leg spin with Shadab. With two world class openers back in form, focus must shift to developing a sound dependable middle order. It will be near impossible to be contenders in the upcoming 50-over World Cup if our batting lineup continues to struggle in pressure situations, losing early wickets rather than putting runs on the board.
Most of all, it was heartening to see that the entire nation cheered the team on until the very end and even after the loss, did not resort to the usual hateful angry finger pointing and undue criticism. This can be attributed to the way the unit fought as a team behind a captain who leads from the front and conveys an encouraging apolitical demeanor off the field as well, with none of the typical murmurs of intrigue, in-fighting and grouping in the dressing room. This team has a long way to go but it has proven to the world that you cannot write off Pakistan from any tournament or bilateral series; they are a world class squad that is just a little rough around the edges and in time will be world champions.