Sri Lankan innings:
Over 1: Tillekeratne Dilshan came out with the wind in his sails. And Pakistan came out with a plan. The teenaged Mohammad Aamir to the tournament’s most influential batsman opts for the shorter length. More to the point, the line is on the stumps, denying Dilshan room to free his arms and hit through the off. A mishit pull off the fourth ball was a porent; the next ball was again short, cramping the batsman. Dilshan pulls, without ever getting the room for it, and Shahzaib Hassan at backward square leg runs back and takes it just outside the 30-yard circle. Lanka 0/1.
Over 2: Jehan Mubarak’s promotion is the first surprise move of the game — and it fails. Abdur Razzaq bowling a tight line and fuller length than Aamir, which makes sense as he doesn’t have the pace to bowl the really short ones on a good batting deck. Mubarak comes down the track to try and clear the field; bounce and movement off the seam defeats the stroke, the ball flares off the edge and Hassan, now at mid off, holds the skier. 2/2, and Sanath Jayasuriya, who started with a streaky outer edge to third man, counter-attacks with a lovely flicked drive through midwicket to end the over with a four.
Over 3: Kumar Sangakkara counter attacks. Aamir continues the short length, Sangakkara pulls in front of midwicket. The bowler changes tack and tries the fuller length; Kumar is all elegance, leaning into a lovely cover drive that splits the packed off field and finds the fence. Two authentic fours in the over, and SL begins its recovery.
Over 4: Teams losing early wickets with little or nothing on the board have tended to rein in their attacking impulses and look to rebuild [West Indies, famously, in the semifinal against the Lankans]. The Lankans opt to counter-attack, and Sanath Jayasuriya starts the fourth over with a stroke bowlers around the world have tired off — the short arm jab that powers the ball into the crowd at midwicket. The next ball is fuller on leg, and Sanath cashes in on the blank check with the flick off the pad to the fine leg fence. And then, disaster. Razzaq sends down a fairly innocuous delivery angling across the Lankan marauder, and loses his footing in the process. Rather than hit through the packed off, Sanath tries to take the ball from off to the less tenanted leg side, and manages only to drag it off the bottom edge onto his stumps.26/3
Over 5: 31/3. Aamir shrugs off the two fours scored off him in the second and bowls with exceptional control. Back of length throughout, and swinging wide of the crease to angle it tight into the off stump, cramping the batsmen for room. 5 runs, largely through nudges.
Over 6: If you had to pick the team that would crack mentally under pressure of the final, you’d have picked Pakistan — but it is Sri Lanka that is cracking. Abdur Razzaq looks innocuous, and outside of straight lines, nothing much is happening for him with the ball — yet a straightforward 124.2k delivery going down the line outside off seems Jayawardene, among the most stylish of international batsman, play like a novice: Feet nowhere, angled bat poking at the ball away from his body, and guiding it clinically to the posted slip. Misbah-ul-Haq dives to hold a relatively simple chance. 32/4. The 4th over, worth ten runs, is the only one of the powerplay overs Sri Lanka have dominated; the other five were clearly Pakistan’s. Sangakkara alone looks untroubled thus far, but with four main batsmen back in the hut, Lanka clearly behind the eight ball.
Over 7: Afridi in early, and playing the role of hustler, rushing through his deliveries, bowling them full, not yet giving them too much air. Kumar and Chamara Silva look to push him around, fiv46/4e singles in the over and Pakistan still keep control.
Over 8: The second highest wicket-taker in the tournament in operation. Saeed Ajmal bowling off a good platform, uses flight and loop and a lot of revs on the ball, classical spin bowling. Chamara Silva beaten on the forward stroke early in the over, but conceives of an intelligent nudge, opening the bat face late and running the 5th ball down to third man for a four. 44/4.
Over 9: Afridi back. Ball coming nicely on to the bat, but neither Kumar nor Chamara in a position to really hit their shots, given the match situation. Afridi revels in such situations, where he can push the batsman back. Bowling flat, quick, very full and using the width of the crease to create angles; not much sign of turn for him, but controlled, tight bowling gives just a single in the over. Plus, his habit of rushing through the deliveries giving no time for the Lankan batsman to catch a breath and think things through. 46/4
Over 10: Chamara Silva on his knee and sweeping, reaching a long way forward to get to an Ajmal floater; Mohammad Aamir and Misbah, at deep square and deep midwicket, misjudge; Misbah thinks Aamir will go for it, and by the time they get their act sorted out and Misbah dives, the ball is across the ropes. Ajmal getting the ball to turn off length, which should interest Mendis and Murali. Halfway through the Lankan innings, and 54/4.
Over 11: Afridi focussed on keeping tight lines and bowling wicket to wicket. The intent is clearly to deny driving length, which continues the policy of the seamers. One aberrant delivery, the fourth in the over, and Afridi leans back and drives off the back foot, through cover. Afridi overcompensates, pitches one full on leg, Kumar inner edges onto pad and gets another four, this time down to fine leg. 11 in the over, the best for Lanka this far, and 65/4
Over 12: Umer Gul, the highest wicket taker in the World Cup, in as early as the 12th over. Younis Khan looking to keep the pressure going and winkle out another wicket if possible. Gul is invariably a touch wayward in his first over, and sends down the typical wide, short ball early on, but rebowls that perfectly — on three-quarter length, seaming away late, Silva beaten on the tentative prod and lucky not to touch it behind. That’s put some pressure on Silva; the next ball is a touch short and into the body, Silva tries the short arm pull, hugely cramped for room and beaten for a touch of extra pace, hits it straight to Ajmal at midwicket. Bad cricket from Silva there — neither the length nor the line of that ball was right for the pull. [67/5; 35 runs at a half-tick below six an over for the 5th wicket]. Isuru Udana upped in the order ahead of Arnold Mathews; with Jehan Mubarak having been sent up the order in a failed experiment, the Lankan lower middle looking a bit undernourished. 67/5.
Over 13: Good captaincy. Afridi doesn’t give you room to cut, forcing the batsman to play in front. Younus Khan blocking the scoring slots in front of the wicket, backing Afridi’s natural bowling style with his field placings and making it tough for the Lankans to find scoring opportunities. The last ball of his spell is tossed up — perhaps the first time he really flighted one — just outside off, it’s the googly, Afridi gives it a real rip, the ball bites and turns in, Udana plays a nothing whip at it, neither drive nor flick, plays all round the ball and loses his off stump. Like Chris Gayle the other night, Kumar Sangakkara standing at one end, watching his mates completely lose the plot. 4-0-20-1 Afridi and he’s done his job.
Over 14: Gul off, Ajmal back on. Slip in place for Arnold Mathews, Younus Khan attacking. Ajmal bowling to his field, tossing tem up around that off stump line, putting a premium on strokeplay. Four singles in the over. 74/6. Just 9 runs for two wickets between 11-14; SL feeling the kind of choke hold it has inflicted on so many teams in the past.
Over 15: Umer Gul back, from the other end, and with a slip in place for both Mathews and Kumar, looking to bowl outside the off stump just back of a length and get it to move off the seam. A more attacking line than usual, where Gul looks for the full length on the stumps. Thus far, 70 per cent of Gul’s deliveries have been back of good length, the antithesis to his normal bowling style, and he hasn’t tried for a single yorker length yet. Kumar playing the waiting game, pushing singles around; question is when does he try for the gamebreaking over, and against which bowler? 79/6 and Gul, unless Younus switches him around again, will bowl the 17th and 19th.
Over 16: Ajmal changing ends with Gul here. Mathews looks quite organized at the batting crease — this youngster has all round talent, besides being an outstanding fielder. Kumar in this over shows his first sign of aggression, coming down the track and hitting from outside off to leg. Not hit with full intent, finds long on but good running by Mathews gets his captain a brace. That sets it up, the two take three successive twos in the over, to backward square and the straight field, with great running between wickets, ends the over with a single and SL 88/6.
Over 17: Gul finally goes for the fuller length and Kumar flicks him off his pads; in the air but enough elevation to clear midwicket and get the four. More good running — this really is an exhibition, the Lankans consistently turning slow singles into tight braces — as Mathews begins to show signs of aggressive intent, coming down to Gul and hitting him over cover to the sweeper. The worrying thing for the Lankans will be that the ball is coming nicely on to the bat, so if Pakistan’s batsmen keep their heads, they should have little difficulty on the chase. Having started with the full length, Gul ends the over going short, and Kumar pulls with fluid grace, behind square leg, ending the over with a four after starting it with one. Gul looking a shade underdone in this innings, no sign yet of the control that he brings to his bowling. Too many lengths and lines. 103/6.
Over 18: Ajmal bowls so slowly, holding on to the release for so long, that he can actually sense what a batsman is up to and alter his intent. Nice example off the first ball — Ajmal realized Mathews was looking to move away, and fired it in fuller, but with more spin, turning the ball sharply in and almost causing the batsman to drag it on. Kumar’s strength is his ability to play conventional strokes, without needing to play crazy cricket; Ajmal tries the fuller length and Kumar picks him through midwicket; Mathews dances down to a shorter length delivery off the last ball and hammers it back past the bowler. Two fours again in the over and Lanka easing up through the gears here. 113/6
Over 19: Gul in his final over, looking to go fuller but also looking not quite all there. Mathews reads the bowler’s mind, steps back to leg just a tad to free up space, and flick drives a yorker length ball on middle stump through wide long on for four. Gul bounces, Mathews hooks but mishits, gets just the one. A forte for Gul was that he would hold his length, but that hasn’t been true in this innings. Kumar combating him by going way to leg even before Gul is into his delivery stride, showing him all three stumps and challenging him to bowl the yorker. Does that twice and both times, manages to push the yorker away for singles. 121/6.
Over 20: The teenaged Aamir gets the final over. Mathews scoops a skier just out of reach of Younis Khan running back from extra cover, for 2; steps away and looks to flay and finds four to third man off the toe of the bat; picks the third ball, on length on off, and swats it over midwicket for the first six since Jayasuriya was out; brilliant running by Kumar gets Mathews a brace to the long on boundary; a yorker from Aamir finally stanches the flow and gives Mathews just a single off the penultimate ball, and Kumar to the last ball of the innings swings a brace out to deep mid wicket to end on 138/6.
Competitive total — and after the start, Lanka has done outstandingly well to get here. 35/24 Mathews, and an outstanding 64/52. 68 runs at over 9 rpo for the 7th wicket has put the Lankans back in contention, and given the bowling some kind of backing. It had looked like a potential rout at the end of the first ten overs, but at the halfway stage it is game on.
The Pakistan Chase:
Over 1: Sri Lanka comes out with a bit of momentum going for it and conversely, Pakistan lost a lot of the early momentum toward the end of the first innings. Angelo Mathews opens, with a slip in place and the Lankan fielders well inside the ring. An immaculate front foot drive by Kamran Akmal threads its way through the off cordon, beating the diving cover and finding the fence to get the chase under way and when Mathews compensates and straightens one on off and middle, Akmal flicks off the pads to get the brace to deep midwicket. An ask of a run a ball plus 19 should not be too difficult for a strong batting lineup — much will depend on how the PPs go. Akmal looks in form; Mathews looks to bowl the fullish length, hoping for some swing but not finding it. Murli does a brilliant sprint to the last ball as Akmal mishits an on drive to wide long on; the Lankan offie runs from deep square to deep long on to stop on the line and keep it down to a brace. 8/0 and the chase is on.
Over 2: Udana is the least impressive of a high quality Lankan bowling lineup. A jerky action, not much pace — a high of 130k — and a tendency to bowl all lengths and lines — Kumar will want him to get through his overs without too much damage. The youngster grunts with the effort of getting the ball as full as possible, angling across the right hander and straightening around off. Backward point, point and cover point in place, nice field for a youngster angling across right handed batsmen at medium pace. Udana keeps taking the pace off the ball, and does very well to give away just 2 in his opening over. The more four or under overs the Lankans send down in the early exchanges the more the pressure will get to the chasing side. 11/0
Over 3: Lasith Malinga takes over from Mathews after just one over, and operating without a slip in place. Very fast and wicket to wicket from ball one; the ball repeatedly thuds into Akmal’s bat before he is ready for it and fully into his stroke. Interesting variations from the bowler — the fourth ball was slower, and fuller, looking for an inswinging yorker. Akmal does very well to dig it out and get a single to mid off; Malinga promptly ups his pace and gets disconcerting lift, squaring Shahzaid Hassan up and hitting the splice of the bat. The last ball is a beautiful confection — perfectly disguised slower delivery, full and on middle and Hassan just manges to keep it out. 12/0, and just one in the over.
Over 4: Udana continues, and Mathews makes a brilliant effort. Hassan looked to drive, got the toe of the bat and skied it, Mathews races behind with the ball coming over his shoulder, can’t get there despite a headlong dive. Amazing effort. Udana then tries the yorker, and Shahzaib gets enough inner edge on it to get four to the vacant fine leg. Kumar keeping the field behind the batsman on the leg side empty, needing Udana to bowl middle to off or better, but that comes with the risk that a touch gets the boundary. Akmal seals the over with a lofted drive over long off that beats Malinga’s sprint and headlong dive and just finds the boundary, 14 in the over and Pakistan gets it on again after the Lankans had pulled it back in the second and third overs. 26/0
Over 5: Murali brought on early, and promptly goes around the wicket, with a slip in place. Almost has Hassan holing out to mid off, gets one to flare off Akmal’s outer edge, but both times the ball lands in vacant space. 4 in the over, 30/0 and the final PP over coming up.
Over 6: +19 still the ask and Mendis joins Murali. Pakistan after five overs has the marginal edge — it hasn’t brought the differential down, but it has knocked 30 off the target and not lost a wicket. Mendis damn near ges a wicket with his first ball, the carrom, as Akmal goes back to cut and just manages to keep the ball out of the stumps. Harsha and Nasser Hussain make the point that this final has the five leading wicket takers of the tournament on the park. Akmal takes his chance, goes down on his knee and slogs Mendis from outside off, over midwicket for the first six of the chase, and follows it up with a delicately paddled brace. 39/0 at the end of the powerplays, and +16 the ask for Pak with all wickets in hand.
Over 7: Mathews gets his second over; not trying too much or too hard, just running in easily and getting the ball on a fullish length around that off stump. Akmal takes a chance — goes a long way across to off, goes down on his knee and goes for the slog sweep, pulls it off perfectly. Mathews lack of pace helps make such shots come off, but it still had to be conceived and played despite a man out in the deep, and Akmal gets his second six. 48/0 at the end of the over, and though the field is now pushed back, Pakistan managing to keep up its momentum, and the first wicket partnership, with Akmal as the engine, looks to be taking the game away.
Over 8: Sanath Jayasuriya gets a bowl and strikes with his first ball. Akmal comes down the track and is beaten by a typical Jayasuriya delivery, bowled around the wicket from wide of the crease, angling into middle and leg with some drift that beats the batsman and sets up the stumping. 37/28 and the ask is just +14 when Akmal hands the job over to Afridi. Jayasuriya’s ploy seems to be to keep bowling at that angle, spearing the ball in at very full length on middle to leg, denying hitting room. Just 3 in the over, 51/1 Pak.
Over 9: Kumar attacking; Mendis bowling with a slip and a very short short fine leg. The only virtue of Shahzaib Hassan’s innings thus far has been that he is still there. Uncomfortable against seam, totally at sea against all the varieties of spin on offer, 10 off 18 at the start of the over. Survives a close LBW shout as he is beaten by the flipper in the off corridor. Finally decides to do something about it, goes down the track and slams Mendis to the long on fence. The shot seems to have unlocked his mind — to the next ball, he stays back, Mendis had pulled that down, and Hassan hammers it over extra cover for a second successive four. Outstanding running gets a brace off the last ball, and suddenly a very good over for Pakistan, 12 in it and 63/1.
Over 10: You see this happen a lot — a batsman in his shell looks to break free, and perishes. Changing gears at will is given only to the very, very good, and even then only sometimes. Hassan, to the first ball of the 10th over, tries to hit Murali out of the ground over long on, is cramped for room and ends up skying one to square leg off the top edge. Murali versus Afridi is electric; the batsman looking to attack, Murali producing an array of different degrees of turn and trajectories. Lovely contest, but each such contest that ends without a wicket is a win for Pakistan. 65/2 after ten. +14 the ask, with 8 wickets in hand, so heading into the final quarter of the game, Pak nicely in control.
Over 11: Malinga returns for his second. Rapid rotation of bowlers, and one-over spells, seems to be catching on in T20, more than one captain opting for this tactic where earlier wisdom was you need to let a bowler get two three overs to get into a groove. Malinga bowling very full lengths at pace in this over; Malik looking in fluent touch and Afridi doing enough to keep the yorkers at bay. Malinga ends the over giving Afridi a torrid time; the batsman ducks under a slower short ball and is taken by surprise when the follow up is a snorter that nearly takes his head off, from just back of length. Bottomline though, 4 in the over, 69/2.
Over 12: The rotation continues, Sanath takes over from Murali. Typical Sanath over — swinging wide of the crease at the angle oround the stumps, bowling into the blockhole on or beyond leg stump. The Pakistan batsmen seem to have sensed that this is this their game. No real panic, even when they try and fail to loft him over the infield. A single a ball in the over, and 75/2.
Over 13: A +14 differential as Udana comes in for his 3rd. The Lankans have done well thus far to use the very full length against Afridi, so he can’t get under the ball and really express himself. Afridi though seems to be feeling his oats — lovely little byplay as Udana produces a slower delivery, Afridi goes across his stumps, scoops it lacrosse style out into the on side and with the pace taken off the shot, manages two before the bowler can run back and get to the ball. Pakistan in this over emulating the Kumar-Mathews tango, running brilliantly to convert ones into twos. Malik in particularly running superbly. 83/2 and the +14 differential remains intact.
Over 14: Now Murali. And finally, Afridi gives up on restraint — he is down on one knee waiting almost before the release, picks it up off middle stump and hoiks it over the midwicker boundary. The second ball has him dancing down in anticipation, Murali bowls that much wider of off and Afridi adjusts and smashes over extra cover for a four. And to the third ball, calmly takes a single where in earlier years he would have been trying to smash another one out of the park. Malik has been batting with exemplary calm at the other end; gets himself a brace. 97/2 and now the differential is just six. This is now officially Pakistan’s game.
Over 15: Mendis back. You never think to use the words clinical efficiency in connection with a Pakistan cricketing effort, but that has been the story of this game — efficient with the ball in the first half, very efficient with the bat in the second; no signs of mania breaking out, just an eye on the main chance and the discipline to do whatever it takes. Mendis sending down six different varieties in the over but the batsmen knock him around, not always cleanly but effectively enough. 103/2.
Over 16: Malinga is back. 2-0-5-0, so he has more than done his bit, but it’s just not been enough on the day. Lanka’s chances ebbing with every over that passes without a wicket. Malinga responds with an outstanding over — outstanding in terms of keeping the runs down with a succession of yorker or fuller length deliveries at varying speeds and lines, but no sign of the wickets Lanka really needs. Just 3 in the over; 106/2
Over 17: +9 the differential, but Mendis has gone for 27 in his three and not managed to break through, so Lanka seriously running out of options here. Pakistan has forced Mendis to bowl to them by using their feet, moving around in the crease and not letting him decide what length and line or variation to bowl — unlike the other teams that have gone up against him in this tournament. It’s not that Mendis has done much wrong, just that the Pakistanis have not allowed him to settle into an attacking rhythm. Afridi and Malik work him around for singles; Afridi tries to make something happening by going a long way to leg and attempting to swing the bowler around over long on, but Dilshan does a good sprint to keep it down to two. 113/2; 7 in the over, +8 the differential, and Mendis ends his spell having given away 3 runs without getting a wicket.
Over 18: At this point, Afridi and Malik need to finish it. A wicket, a new man in, and you could have one of those unexpected stumble. Udana in for his final over; looking to bowl his usual style of changes up and down the pace scale. Afridi looking a touch impatient, swinging harder but uglier as the crowd urges him on, getting them out into the outfield but not really finding the ropes. Great running especially from Malik push Pakistan closer, and Afridi finally seals it, picking the slower ball early, setting up a hitting base and powering it with arms and shoulders high into the stands over deep midwicket. Udana panics, goes too much on the on side, and Afridi picks up the gift four to get to his 50 and more importantly, the differential now in Pakistan’s favor: 7 needed off 12. Afridi for the second straight game seals the deal for his side.
Over 19: Malinga in. His impeccable control finally cracks, drifts down leg and Malik gently taps it to the fine leg fence; and levels the score off the third ball when he keeps a yorker out and Afridi races down for the single. The sense of an explosion waiting to happen in the stands as the scores are tied with eight wickets and nine balls in hand; Afridi gets a yorker on his toes, scrambles the leg bye and that is that — Pakistan win, with plenty of gas left in the tank and in doing so, not only reminds the cricketing world why it need this team in the mix, but erases the memory of that late stumble in the inaugural World Cup that saw them lose to India.
Afridi’s innings exemplifies the Pakistan effort: 54 off 40 batting at three and seeing the team home, but in that knock, just two fours and two sixes. Efficient, and commendable in the way he reined in his berserker instincts and buckling down to the job without letting himself be swamped by his own adrenalin.
The team celebrates — it’s their moment, and the way they’ve come into this tournament after a shaky start, they fully deserve this moment in the sunshine.
Sri Lanka never really found that cutting edge — its star bowlers did well but not well enough against a determined opponent, and Udana’s 44 runs in four overs proved the real differentiator between the two sides. Lanka produced its peak performance in the semis; Pakistan kept its very best for the final.
Game over, tournament over — the two best bowling sides met in the final, and the one that kept its nerve better on the day won.
Over and out from me.