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Bringing Nottingham to a standstill

Posted in ICC World Twenty20

When Younus Khan tagged Twenty20 cricket as ‘WWF’ he was absolutely spot on – you had to wrestle your way out of Trent Bridge last night as jubilant Pakistan supporters poured into the streets around the ground following their stunning win over South Africa.

Few people gave Pakistan a chance against a relentless South Africa side that had bulldozed their way through to the semi-finals.

Pakistan, on the other hand, were battered by England and squeezed through their group at the expense of Holland. Both games led Younus to conduct bizarre press conferences, first branding the newest form of cricket mere "fun" before comparing it to wrestling.

Shahid Afridi

Boom - Shahid Afridi launches another bouundary on a night when he finally rediscovered form with the bat

Like those old WWF storylines of the late 1980s, perhaps the Pakistan skipper was just setting us up for last night’s sucker-punch.

Wins over New Zealand and Ireland in the Super Eights booked a place in the semi-final where Shahid 'Boom Boom' Afridi, Pakistan’s Hulk Hogan, finally batted like everyone knows he can, blasting a quickfire half-century before bowling out Herschelle Gibbs and AB de Villiers.

South Africa coach Mickey Arthur said before the game that Gibbs was working on two new shots in retaliation to the series of innovative strokes being unleashed this tournament, the Dilshan scoop being the most high-profile.

Unfortunately, time spent refining the ‘Gibbs’ meant he neglected the most important shot in the game – the forward defence – as Afridi squeezed a top-spinner between bat and pad.

That wicket further revved up the Trent Bridge crowd, probably 95 per cent Pakistan supporters, who reached fever pitch by the time 17-year-old Mohammad Aamer charged in to bowl the final over.

JP Duminy did his best to silence the shrieks but even his mighty clunk for six over midwicket was drowned out by the Pakistan fans who created a din at the climax of the thrilling encounter.

Khan told journalists in his press conference that winning the tournament would be a huge boost for his countrymen back home, many of them embroiled in bitter skirmishes, particularly in the north, where the skipper hails from.

The state of their cricket is not much better, the recent terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team in Lahore forcing the Pakistan side to becoming something of a wandering team.

Pakistan fans

Pakistan's vocal supporters provided a wonderful atmosphere both in and out of Trent Bridge on Thursday

With no international side willing to tour Pakistan for security reasons, Khan, Afridi and co will be forced to play ‘home’ matches in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and even England.

Khan added that Pakistan are always well supported when they play in England and that he would relish a return to these shores.

Traffic was brought to a standstill outside the ground for almost two hours as jubilant fans ran through the stationary cars waving flags.

Ecstatic drives whacked their horns and music reached levels normally reserved for a Guns 'n' Roses concert. Police even needed to close the London Road Bridge as the celebrations raged into the night.

“It took me an hour to do about 100 metres,” said my taxi driver after I left the ground at 11pm, just as the commotion began to die down. He still had to complete a few swerves that Lewis Hamilton would have been proud of as the party continued in the city centre.

“Imagine if they win it,” he added.