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Pakistan cheers World Cup triumph

TROUBLED but cricket-crazy Pakistan yesterday celebrated victory in the Twenty20 World Cup 3 1/2 months after an attack on the Sri Lankan team appeared to drive a nail into the coffin of Pakistani cricket.

Pakistan beat Sri Lanka in the final at Lord's in London on Sunday to win its first major trophy since former captain Imran Khan's side won the 1992 50-over World Cup.

Former test cricketers showered praise as thousands of fans took to the streets across Pakistan to celebrate.

The rejoicing started as batsman Shahid Afridi steered Pakistan to the title with an unbeaten 54 off 40 balls, with his team chasing down the target of 139 runs in 18.4 overs for the loss of two wickets.

Captain Kumar Sangakkara scored an unbeaten 64 off 52 balls and helped Sri Lanka recover from 70-6 to finish with 138-6 off its 20 overs.

Giant screens were put in place in the main markets of Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Multan where thousands of men, women and children gathered to watch the final live from Lord's.

The victory provided many back home with a welcome lift, given the Pakistan army's fight against militant Taliban fighters in the northwest of the country.

"We desperately needed this victory because there's so much happening around our country," Mohammad Khalil told the Express News television.

Khalil drove Sri Lankan players and officials to safety at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on March 3 when an attack on the bus by gunmen left six policemen dead.

"Sri Lanka is our friend and it will remain our friend, but I wanted Pakistan to win today's match," Khalil said as he waved the national flag and watched the match live on a big screen with hundreds of other Pakistan team supporters in Lahore.

With foreign teams refusing to visit, commentators mourned what some saw as the death of Pakistani cricket.

Ramiz Raja, a member of Pakistan's the World Cup winning team and a former test captain, rated the victory as more important than the one against England in Melbourne 17 years ago.

Major turnaround

"It's a major turnaround in a sense that over the last six to eight months whatever has happened in Pakistan it has sent wrong messages."

Pakistan had a shaky start to its World Cup campaign when it lost both its warm-up matches - against South Africa and India - before losing to England in a group match.

"Nobody was rating this team, but the way they have made a comeback there's no example in our sporting history," Raja said.

Another former test captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq, gave the credit to Pakistan bowlers.

"I think the bowlers played a vital role in winning the tournament. Umar Gul, Afridi and Saeed Ajmal bowled superbly throughout," he said.

Across Pakistan, people had started to gather around giant screens on roads and in front of television in hotels and restaurants in all the main cities before the match.

They clapped and danced on the beat of drums at the fall of every Sri Lankan wicket.

Medium fast bowler Abdul Razzaq chipped in with three quick wickets that left Sri Lanka reeling at 70-6 in the 13th over while young 17-year-old left-arm fast bowler Mohammad Aamer dismissed prolific batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan without scoring in the first over.

After the victory, Pakistan captain Younis Khan made an emotional appeal for teams to visit his country.

"Everybody must come to Pakistan, we need a home test series. How can we attract the youngsters?" Younis, draped in the Pakistan flag, told a news conference.


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