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Pakistan celebrates cricket triumph over England
President, prime minister congratulate Pakistani team
By Javed Aziz Khan
ISLAMABAD – Pakistani cricket fans are jubilant after their team clinched the cricket Test series against the world’s No. 1 team, England, in a stunning January 28 victory in the United Arab Emirates.
The 72-run triumph delighted fans who have been unable to witness a live international match since terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009. It gave Pakistan an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the three-match series. The third match is scheduled for February 3.
Cricket fans took to the streets nationwide in joy as Umar Gul sealed the win by catching James Anderson in the deep on the bowling of Abdur Rahman. Rahman took his career best, 6 for 25, in the second innings of the second Test and was declared man of the match.
Some Pakistanis danced while others cheered and hoisted national flags. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, as well as the entire nation, congratulated the team.
“This is indeed a great victory. The players have performed extraordinarily under the leadership of once under-estimated captain, Misbahul Haq,” said a former first-class cricketer from Peshawar, Abdul Wahab. The win in the second Test was unexpected, since it seemed easy for the world’s No. 1 team to score 145 runs with 10 wickets in hand, he said. Instead, England “slipped to 72 all out,” as the England and Wales Cricket Board noted.
The Pakistani team was bowled out for 214 in the second innings after its batsmen struggled to a mere 144-run lead against England. However, its spinners turned the tables on mighty England, which was eyeing a seemingly easy target of 145 runs.
Pakistan scored 257 and 214 in the two innings. England, meanwhile, scored 327 in the first innings but collapsed to its lowest total ever against Pakistan, 72 runs, in the second innings.
Rahman did most of the damage, with strong support from another spinner, Saeed Ajmal. Ajmal got his 100th test wicket in only his 19th match, bettering the record of Waqar Younis, who did it in 20 tests.
Ajmal now ranks No. 2 among bowlers worldwide, while Rahman jumped to No. 9 from No. 14. “It seemed an easy target for the England as two days were left to score less than 150 runs for 10 wickets,” said Pakistani club cricketer Imdad Ali. “However, Pakistani bowlers led by Rahman stunned the English batsmen as well as the spectators to bowl his career best.”
“It showed that if the Pakistani team really wants to perform well, they can do it even against the world’s best teams,” said Tauseefur Rahman, vice president of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sports Writers Association and senior sports analyst.
“All the players, particularly the duo – Rahman and Ajmal – knocked out the English players. The Pakistani fans must be proud of their bowlers for the historic win."
The win lifted the spirits of Pakistanis still mourning their defeat by India in the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup.
“The credit for the win goes to (captain) Misbahul Haq and every individual player,” new Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Chaudhry Zaka Ashraf said, according to The Nation. “If the team continues to perform like this, we will be No. 1 team of the world soon and will clinch the coming World Cup too.”
After the third Test match February 3, Pakistan still has four One-Day Internationals and three 20-20 matches during the series with England ending February 27. It is hosting the series in the UAE because other countries refuse to play in Pakistan, citing security concerns.