Shahid Afridi scored an unbeaten 54 in the final against Sri Lanka © Getty Images
Shahid Afridi scored an unbeaten 54 in the final against Sri Lanka © Getty Images

A final always comes with a lot of pressure, be it a tournament of any magnitude. However, if it is a World Cup or something of equivalent importance, the pressure multiplies a few times. Shahid Afridi, Pakistan‘s enigmatic superstar, has won his side many a match with his all-round performances. There are, however, some victories have become milestones of his international career. Paulami Chakraborty looks back at the final of ICC World T20 2009, played on June 21, 2009, which is one such example where Boom Boom Afridi became hero for the nation, taking his side to a prestigious victory that they failed to achieve a year back. READ: Is Shahid Afridi really a legend of cricket?

It had been almost two years since the unfortunate final at New Wanderers. The memory was still quite fresh in the minds of the Pakistan players and countrymen, that of Misbah-ul-Haq’s brilliant effort going in vain just because of one mistake, of Joginder Sharma turning the hero of India’s victory in the inaugural edition of ICC World T20. Indeed, Pakistan remembered it all and prepared themselves again for yet another quest.

It did not look good for Younis Khan’s Pakistan this time either: they lost their first match of the tournament against Paul Collingwood’s England. However, they fought back, stood up and fought to claim their first victory with a whopping 82 runs against Netherlands.

While against England it was only the skipper with the bat, the whole batting order contributed in the next to set the target at 175. The bowling also improved: while they had let England score 185, they bundled Netherlands for 93. There was prominent change in performance and intent.

But that was Netherlands. Bigger challenges lay ahead of them. Put in Group F, a big challenge came Pakistan’s way as they were up against Sri Lanka. It was like a face off two equally-powered teams. Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Muttiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga: it was as star-studded an outfit as one could imagine. Dilshan and Jayasuriya pair got the Lankans off to the perfect start, but Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi fought back to restrict them to 150. The target was gettable, but Pakistan ended up losing by 19 runs. Once again Younis stood amidst the ruins, scoring 50 in a Pakistan effort that was nothing short of disgraceful.

The turnaround came against New Zealand. Younis brought in Abdul Razzaq. Gul and Mohammad Aamer ran through the New Zealand top order. Brendon McCullum fell for 12 as Gul’s astonishing 5 for 6 did not let Scott Styris and Jacob Oram do the slog-hitting they had planned for. The Kiwis were bundled out for a mere 99, and even Daniel Vettori could not stop Pakistan to get to the total with 6.5 overs remaining. There were two takeaways for Pakistan in the match: a rejuvenated bowling attack, and Afridi scoring runs.

After trouncing New Zealand, an encounter with Ireland seemed to be an easy job. Though a target of 160 looked nothing extraordinary, Pakistan bowlers, now all pumped up, gave it the full throttle. A 39-run victory over Ireland and Pakistan were all set to face South Africa in the semi-final.

After 5, 13 and 0, Afridi’s best were the two thirtyish scores against Ireland and New Zealand in the tournament. But the spectators saw a completely different Afridi bat as he stayed at the crease after opener Shahzaib Hasan departed for a duck in an all important match, leaving Pakistan struggling at 8 for 1.

Afridi carved out two brief yet crucial partnerships with Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik. He made 51 himself, and Pakistan pulled off a decent job, setting South Africa 150. Though the score did not look very attractive, the Pakistani bowlers were now unstoppable. Even a 54-ball 64 from Jacques Kallis and an unbeaten 44 from JP Duminy failed to save South Africa from a defeat. Afridi emerged as the star of the match as he bagged the crucial wickets of AB de Villiers and Herschelle Gibbs.

It was time for the final showdown. Once again Pakistan were there in the final, just a step away from the glory the trophy brings. They had already lost to Sri Lanka in the tournament.

This time, however, it was different: Dilshan and Jehan Mubarak departed for ducks; with Jayawardene and Jayasuriya failed to provide any support, Sangakkara’s unbeaten 64 could not do better than lift Sri Lanka to 138. Angelo Mathews’ 35 off 24 must also be praised looking at the situation it came in. Razzaq remained pivotal with his 3 for 20, while Aamer, Gul and Afridi all bagged solitary wickets.

When Pakistan batted, Kamran put his experience to good use. After Shahzaib departed for 19, Kamran joined hands with Afridi to take Pakistan to 63. Even when Kamran departed, Malik walked out, and played perfect foil to Afridi. Sri Lanka had no answer to Afridi and Malik. Suddenly the target started to look very low. With a couple of fours and sixes each, Afridi rushed to an unbeaten 54. Malik remained unfazed at 24, and Pakistan lifted the ICC World T20 trophy.

Afridi’s 54 not out remains his highest T20I score. The innings has to be considered one of his greatest knocks across formats, looking at how he made a comeback in the series after a dismal start and maintained his form in a high-intensity match and against a team that had world greats at their peak.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 138 for 6 in 20 overs (Kumar Sangakkara 64*; Abdul Razzaq 3 for 20) lost to Pakistan 139 for 2 in 18.4 overs (Shahid Afridi 54*) by 8 wickets with 8 balls to spare.

Man of the Match: Shahid Afridi.
Man of the Series: Tillakaratne Dilshan.

(Paulami Chakraborty, a singer, dancer, artist, and photographer, loves the madness of cricket and writes about the game. She can be followed on Twitter at @Polotwitts)