Afridi leads Pakistan to Twenty20 glory
Shahid Afridi charged Pakistan to ICC World Twenty20 glory as previously-unbeaten Sri Lanka were defeated by eight wickets in the final at Lord's.
All-rounder Afridi hit an unbeaten 54 as he orchestrated a perfect Pakistan chase of their 139-run target.
Victory was sealed with eight balls to spare when Afridi scrambled a leg-bye. Within seconds the entire squad and backroom staff knelt and kissed the hallowed turf in communal celebration.
These teams were drawn together by the horrific terrorist attack in Lahore this year, which left Sri Lanka’s players traumatised and wounded and Pakistan without home international fixtures for the foreseeable future.
In the build-up to this all-Asia showpiece, Pakistan captain Younis Khan had voiced his desire to win the tournament as a reminder to the international cricketing community of his side's existence and for his fellow countrymen, who are suffering because of the effects of terrorism in the north-west of his homeland.
Sri Lanka triumphed in the previous meeting between the sides in the tournament, also at Lord's, but just as in the Super Eights contest, Pakistan were unperturbed by Sri Lanka’s spinners.
Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan were taken for 54 runs in their combined seven overs for the price of opener Shahzaib Hasan.
Crucially, it was Afridi's calculated attack on Murali, on his return to the attack for the 14th over, which proved pivotal.
Afridi sized up the first delivery of Murali's return and planted the ball into the Tavern Stand at deep midwicket.
The next one was flashed hard through extra-cover for four and by the end of the over Pakistan's asking rate was down to seven runs per over with just two wickets down. Nerves were settled.
Former captain Shoaib Malik scampered between the wickets to maintain a manageable rate and the result was effectively rubber-stamped when Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara gambled for the 18th over.
With 26 required by Pakistan, he opted to throw the ball to left-arm seamer Isuru Udana, and left Murali and Lasith Malinga in reserve.
Only seven runs had come from the first four but Afridi seized his chance to free the arms at the penultimate delivery, and launched another monstrous hit into the crowd at deep midwicket.
When he flicked the next one - called a no-ball for being over waist height - past short fine-leg for another boundary, the celebrations among a Pakistani-dominated crowd began.
The early impetus of the pursuit was provided by Kamran Akmal, who cracked two sixes and two fours in 37 from 38 balls.
It took the introduction of veteran left-arm spinner Sanath Jayasuriya to quell the charge as he followed the batsman with his first delivery and earned a comfortable stumping.
Sri Lanka's 138 for six represented something of a fightback after Pakistan's strong
response to being asked to field.
Of the top order, only captain Sangakkara, who struck an unbeaten 64, negotiated Pakistan’s bowling attack with any conviction and the loss of four wickets in the powerplay limited their aspirations.
It was only thanks to Sangakkara's seventh-wicket partner Angelo Mathews, who once again highlighted his impact as a late-innings hitter with an impressive 35 not out, that they managed a challenging score.
It was veteran Abdul Razzaq who did the early damage for Pakistan inside the opening few overs.
Razzaq, in as a replacement for the injured Yasir Arafat, claimed three wickets with the new ball.
Teenage fast bowler Mohammad Aamir began the tumble when he claimed the prize wicket of tournament top scorer Tillakeratne Dilshan with a successful short ball in the opening over.
Sangakkara plumped for the same tactics which have been integral to their success by opting to bat first.
Unbeaten Sri Lanka defended totals superbly in the tournament, including a previous meeting with Pakistan, when they won by 19 runs at the same ground.
This time, however, a stand of 68 merely kept the contest in the balance.
Mathews rode his luck as he plundered all but one of the 17 runs off teenager Aamir's final over - a two and an edged four from the first two deliveries followed by a nonchalant loft off his pads for a towering six over deep square-leg from the third.