Hasan Ali was heartbroken. His eyes were welling up with tears. Shaheen Shah Afridi sat on the ground, perplexed as to how it could all go so wrong in a matter of minutes, on a night when everything felt right.
The stadium’s electrifying crowd had died away. Tears welled up in the eyes of the children in the stands. They couldn’t believe it.
It all began when Shaheen was brought on to bowl the penultimate over with 22 runs needed.
The left-arm pacer bowled a slow delivery into the pitch that Australia’s Marcus Stoinis edged, but it failed to reach wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan.
The right-handed batter got a leg-bye off the second delivery.
The 21-year-old ran in and attempted a yorker on Matthew Wade’s pads, but he missed the line and the ball went wide. He then bowled a full-ish delivery that angled into Wade, who hit it but failed to time it properly. Hasan dashed in to take the catch, but he fumbled it. The Australians also completed a double. Everyone was taken aback. It appeared that fortunes had shifted.
The Australians needed 18 off nine balls. Shaheen went for a yorker once more, but Wade moved to his right and scooped it for a six.
On the next delivery, the fast-bowler drew back his length and rolled his fingers, but it was thrown into the crowd.
Shaheen went for another toe-crushing delivery, and it was another scoop that ended the game and Pakistan’s run in the tournament. It was the first time Pakistan fans had seen this group of boys at the bottom of the tournament.
Despite the disappointment of not making it to the event’s final, the public should remember that these are the same players who have performed admirably throughout the tournament.
They were disciplined and lethal on the field, but friendly and humble off the field and off the field.
Everyone wrote off Pakistan’s team before the seventh edition of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup began.
They were, to say the least, unprepared, owing largely to the cancellation of England and New Zealand tours.
This development not only halted the team’s preparations but also left the players heartbroken because they were unable to play in front of their home crowd.
But it’s possible that’s what fueled this group’s roaring comeback in the UAE. In the first match, they defeated archrival India by a margin of ten wickets. They broke the curse in grand style. While chasing 152 runs, Rizwan and Babar remained not out on 79 and 68 runs, respectively.
That was a distinctly un-Pakistani performance. On the field, everyone was cool and collected. There was no yelling, sledding, or obnoxious gestures.
Rizwan and Babar simply hugged and thanked the Almighty. Rizwan hugged India’s captain Virat Kohli when he approached for a handshake.
This team had not only won the competition convincingly, but they had also emerged as a larger team, larger in terms of pride. Their humility and simplicity captivated the world. They accomplished something extraordinary, but they made it appear as if they had just won another game.
Captain Babar went into the dressing room and told his players that it was only the beginning of their campaign, that they should not get carried away, that they needed to keep up their performance, and that they should not repeat the mistakes they had made in the past.
Then came New Zealand, and this time it was in Sharjah. It was the same team that left the country for security reasons but never shared any information. It was the same group of players whose departure jeopardized the future of the country’s cricket, so the players and the crowd’s emotions were understandable.
The Green Caps were back on track. Their capable bowling attack held the Kiwis to a total of 134/8.
Babar’s men had a few hiccups while chasing the target, but they got over the line rather comfortably at a loss of five wickets.
The audience was enraged.
They wanted to mock the Black Caps for abandoning the historic tour just minutes before the game’s start.
As the game ended and the Pakistan team returned to the dressing room, the spectators began changing security, security.’
The captain and his deputy, Shadab Khan, asked the audience not to make such remarks. It was yet another sign from these gentlemen that they hold no grudges against anyone. They were only there to enjoy their favorite sport. They were there to represent their country. Everything else was merely incidental to them.
Pakistan won their third match of the season against Afghanistan, this time by a margin of five wickets. Asif Ali was the hero, hitting four sixes off the bowling of Karim Jannat in the penultimate over of the inning. For the first time in at least a decade, Pakistan appeared to be a cohesive unit with a clear mission. They were playing a very different style of cricket. They didn’t drop catches, and their batting and bowling were both intelligent.
To confirm their place in the last four, the 2009 T20 World Champions needed to defeat Namibia, which proved to be a walk in the park.
The Green Caps amassed a massive 189-run total on the board. In response, the opponents, who had miraculously advanced to the final round, scored 145 runs.
After the game, Pakistan’s players went to Namibia’s dressing room to thank them for their efforts, where they shared thoughts, smiles, and memories to cherish. To say the least, it was a thoughtful gesture.
Then there was the match against Scotland. It was their final game of the Super 12s stage, and they once again put up a more-than-competitive total of 189 runs in their allotted 20 overs.
In response, the Scottish team never really got going, managing only 117 for the loss of six wickets.
The real action, however, began after the on-field action had concluded. Haris Rauf, the star pacer, celebrated his birthday on that day. Pakistan invited the entire Scotland team into their dressing room following the game, where the Lahore Qalandars’ fast-bowler cut the cake and fed it to his Scottish counterparts.
The remaining members of the Scotland team were served cake by these players. It was such a lovely gesture, something the cricketing world had most likely never seen before. It was both refreshing and emotional. With their off-the-field behavior and impressive performance in the middle, these young men and some of their older contemporaries enthralled the entire world.
For the first time, Pakistan became the talk of the town. The International Criminal Court (ICC) created videos for them. They were regarded as the tournament’s most difficult team to defeat. We hadn’t seen such enthusiasm for the team in the country in a long time. In the streets, children were chanting Pakistan Zindabad. Women were setting aside time to watch the game. People flocked to markets to purchase Pakistan jerseys. The scenes were breathtaking. The love was unrivaled.
It was also largely due to their collaborative efforts. In five games, they had five different players of the match winners. They provided the world with new heroes in the form of Asif Ali and Haris Rauf. Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, and Shadab Khan also delivered solid performances. Babar used the bat with precision. Fakhar Zaman and Rizwan shone in crucial moments.
The wicketkeeper-batsman was in the Intensive Care Unit prior to the Australia game due to a chest infection, but he gave it his all in the game. Hasan Ali was the only obvious weak link in Pakistan.
This time, however, things were different. Fans stood by their players and did not slander them.