Pakistan Deserves This Celebration

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Pakistan enjoyed a rare moment of celebration, joy and triumph on Sunday, March 02, 2014. No, it did not come from a decisive victory over the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan. It came on a different field in Bangladesh. Playing against arch sporting enemies India, Pakistan cricket team registered a memorable victory on the fourth ball of the last over in an important group match in the ongoing Asia Cup Tournament. It was a team effort, with the bowlers first restricting the famed Indian batting line up to a modest total of 245 and then most, if not all the batsmen pitching in with useful contributions. But in the end, what stood between India and a victory was the mercurial and the inconsistent genius Shahid Afridi, who in one of his rare acts of controlled and sensible aggression took the Indian bowling apart to take Pakistan over the finishing line.

Pakistan, fielding first, bowled to a plan and the bowlers were very effective, especially their bowling kingpin Saeed Ajmal. They did a decent job of restricting India to a reasonable total. But it is the batting that has always been Pakistan’s Achilles heel. After scoring a brisk 67 in the first ten overs without losing any wicket, Pakistan gave up almost the entire momentum in the next 10-12 overs. At the end of 23 overs, Pakistan almost seemed to have lost the plot with four wickets down, including both the openers and skipper Misbah and Umar Akmal back in pavilion. From then on, it was a laborious but effective partnership between Mohammed Hafeez and Sohaib Maqsood which took the score to 200 in the 43rd over when Hafeez lost his wicket.

After that Pakistan kept losing wickets at regular intervals, but Gul played a cameo of 12 runs of 12 balls, which kept Pakistan in the hunt. But Afridi hit a six and a boundary after that to take Pakistan closer to victory. But as we have witnessed in most Indo-Pakistan cricket matches, the drama and the excitement doesn’t end easily. India got the 9th Pakistani wicket on the first ball of the last over. Afridi got the strike on the 3rd delivery of that over, after the last batsman Junaid took a single of the 2nd delivery. The next two balls went sailing high up in the air to get Afridi two sixes and Pakistan a much deserved victory. This knock will immortalize Afridi in the minds of Pakistan cricket fans.

With this victory, the whole of Pakistan erupted in joy, momentarily forgetting the daily acts of violence which has made the life of the common Pakistanis miserable.  The entire country erupted in predictable celebration punctuated with gun-fire, even from automatic rifles, apart from traditional fire-works and a spontaneous display of celebration by people cutting across various segments of the society. This was in complete contrast to the deserted looks that these streets wore moments before Pakistan registered their historic win over India. It seemed as if Pakistani people were waiting for one such moment to celebrate and forget about their daily miseries, at least  for a while. News reports from Peshawar said that gunshots were heard in the city on Sunday night as soon as Shahid Afridi hit two consecutive sixes to lead Pakistan to a famous victory over India. Young men fired with guns and pistols and shouted victory slogans to celebrate the occasion.

Pakistan is now used to gun shots and for all the wrong reasons. But on Sunday night, for a change, the gun shots were only celebratory. It was Pakistan’s night, it was Afridi’s night. Earlier in the match, when Afridi made a brilliant stop while fielding, Rameez Raja commented: “Shahid Afridi dived to stop the ball. If he does that, he must be serious.” Yes, he was serious and he meant business. Pakistan cricket fans will savor this victory for a long time. Maybe like the victory they registered against India in Sharjah, when Javed Miandad hit a six on the last ball of the match to seal a historic victory against India.

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