LONDON – Pakistan, Zindabad. Pakistan, Zindabad!
“He who laughs last, laughs loudest,” chimed the Uber driver, wearing a Pakistani grin as wide as the River Thames, as the sun set on a glorious day for the craziest team in cricket.
Ever since their horror show against India in their first game of the tournament – a lifetime ago, it seems now – Pakistan have been unrecognisable.
They’ve been “different gravy” as they say in these parts. They silenced South Africa, snuck in against Sri Lanka, mugged England, but they saved their Sunday best for India.
It had to be against India, the one country that they measure themselves against.
They live for days like this, glorious days flushed with success, when they come together and look irrepressible.
The manner of their play in the final week of the tournament suggests that no one could have lived with them.
They blew India away; literally whizzed them up in a green frenzy of a hurricane, and Virat Kohli and his men came out staggering.
On Kennington Lane, the road that runs next to The Oval, Pakistan fans had stood outside the ground begging for spare tickets. The sold out signs had gone up weeks ago, but they were clutching onto the hope that someone might not fancy a day out in the London sun.
Short of match tickets, they stood outside the gate, watching the big screen, and living off the roars from within.
It was bizarre, but beautiful. There are pubs at every corner in England, but the occasion demanded them to hear the reaction live.
It makes sense, in a weird old way. And so, every one of the 338 runs that Pakistan battered had a roar, and then an echo from those who stood giddy vigil at glory’s gate.
On that same Kennington Lane, long before the last rites were read, scores of light blue shirts sulked to buses, taxis, Range Rovers and the odd Rolls Royce.
India have the money, but today, Pakistan had the glory.
And you couldn’t buy it off them, whatever your price. Pakistan, homeless – occasionally hopeless – and always reckless, live for days like these.
Mickey Arthur didn’t know what to do with himself. A week is a long time for a coach, but it can feel like a year for a Pakistani minder.
Faced with lashings of Indian optimism in his pre-match presser, Arthur had joked that he thought his side could actually win. Based on logic, on history, on the general swing of things, India were supposed to hold all the aces.
But, they didn’t have a Fakhar, an Azhar or, most tellingly, a Mohammad Amir.
At the scene of his crime of years ago, Pakistan’s left-arm merchant resurrected himself, and bowled a spell of such intoxicating beauty and beastly intent that it was like he was never gone, never banned.
They’ll remember him forever now, the guy so good he got Kohli out two balls in a row.
They’ll remember this side, too, these magicians, these flippers of scripts and defiers of logic. They are still singing on that riotous Kennington Lane.
Pakistan, Zindabad. Pakistan, Zindabad!!
What a team. What a story!