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Cricket triumph elates Pakistanis on national day
Team wins 1st Asia Cup trophy in 12 years
By Abdul Nasir Khan
LAHORE – Thousands of Pakistani cricket fans celebrated Pakistan Day March 23 by applauding the country’s first Asia Cup title in 12 years.
“We are now Asian champion after a long time,” cricket fan Muhammad Umair told Central Asia Online as hundreds of Lahorites took to the streets to celebrate.
Pakistan beat Bangladesh by two runs in front of 40,000 fans in Dhaka March 22.
It is Pakistan’s second Asia Cup overall, and the country’s first trophy since Moin Khan led Pakistan to the title at the same venue in 2000. The frequency of the tournament has varied, but it has taken place every two years since 2008.
“Bangladesh gave good fight to Pakistan, but we are happy to have the title after a 12-year-long span,” a jubilant Uzair Khan said. “The Pakistan team provided a gift on Pakistan Day.”
The match lasted to the last ball of the game.
“I don’t know whether it is the beauty of cricket or irony of Bangladesh team, that a (Pakistani) team which could not defend its heavy total of 329 against India restricted Bangladesh to 234,” sports journalist Sohail Imran, who covers cricket for Geo News, told Central Asia Online by phone from Dhaka. Bangladesh previously successfully chased 289 runs during a match against world champion India, and achieved 212 in 40 overs against Sri Lanka, a World Cup runner-up.
“When their gut-wrenching disappointment dies down, Bangladesh will remember that they were just one stroke away from the Asia Cup title. And see it as clinching evidence of their progress,” cricket writer Abhishek Purohit wrote for the ESPN Cricinfo website. “When their sense of relief passes, Pakistan will remember that they were tested to the hilt, but came through somehow. And see it as confirmation of their renowned ability to win the big moments.”
Pakistan started poorly when its top four batsmen, including captain Misbah ul Haq (13), got out with a mere 70 runs in the first 22 overs. But a 59-run stand between Umar Akmal and Hmmad Azam allowed the team to breathe easier. Shahid Afridi (32) and wicket-keeper Sarfaraz Ahmad (46) helped Pakistan reach a total of 236/9.
Bangladesh started its chase well, scoring 68 without losing any wickets, but it lost three wickets in the space of 13 runs. Shakib Al Hasan and Nasir Hussain kept the team’s hopes alive with an 89-run partnership for the fifth wicket. With half-centuries from Al Hasan (68) and opener Tamim Iqbal (60), Bangladesh was well positioned to upset another former world champion and win its first cricket title.
Bangladesh needed 19 runs in last 12 balls. It made 10 off the first six balls, but Pakistani bowler Aizaz Cheema’s slow deliveries stymied the effort at 234/8.
Cheema took three wickets, while Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal bagged two wickets each. Despite the win, cricket observers criticised the Pakistani team.
It’s time to replace ul Haq as One Day International and T/20 team captain, commentators Sakandar Bakht and Mirza Iqbal Baig said.
“Misbah ul Haq and Younis Khan should think that they are not capable anymore to handle the situation and should give space to youngsters,” Mirza Iqbal said in a post-match talk show.
The team has not announced any changes for now, however.