Cricket fans react while watching the Twenty20 final in a park in Islamabad
Islamabad (AFP) - Hunched over phones, packed into heaving grandstands, and crowded around restaurant TVs, cricket-crazed Pakistanis suffered collective heartbreak on Sunday as they watched their team go down to England in the Twenty20 World Cup final.
Jos Buttler’s England held Pakistan to 137-8 in Melbourne, then chased it down with six balls to spare.
Shamsa Khizan was among the ranks of fanatical female fans in the front rows before a towering screen in a park in the smoggy capital Islamabad.
A main public park in Islamabad was turned into an open-air screening of the final
Over the course of the afternoon, their howls of encouragement grew fainter, then fell silent.
As they dispersed in hushed disappointment, Khizan told AFP she was left with a “hollow mind”.
Pakistan has “guts, potential and talent”, the 24-year-old lawyer said, but “England no doubt played very beautifully”.
“To lose a game is a part of the game,” she said, her voice warbling with raw emotion. “I’m still proud.”
- Former glory -
Pakistan last faced England in a World Cup final in 1992, when captain Imran Khan led the team to victory in the ODI event, cementing himself as a sporting legend and spring-boarding his political career.
Fans packed a hockey stadium in Lahore to watch the match on a giant screen
Pakistan is currently languishing in political and economic turmoil – in part owing to Khan’s tenure as prime minister which ended in April – and the England showdown seemed a rare chance to buoy the national mood.
“The entire nation was behind the team,” lamented 27-year-old Imran Masood as the crowds left the park.
“We had that same feeling of the 1992 World Cup.”
Earlier in the day, fans surged into a stadium in the eastern city of Lahore to watch the match on jumbo screens, while in Karachi in the south, gaggles of onlookers congregated around livestreams in tents and eateries.
“Today’s cricket match has overwhelmed us all,” said 35-year-old Javed Baloch, who pitched a makeshift viewing area for fans to “enjoy every moment of the match”.
- ‘Disappointing luck’ -
In Islamabad, a pair of children trailing a scuffed cricket bat were the first to rush the fan zone as the toss took place.
Fans cheer at a special venue set up in Karachi to watch the final
But they were soon joined by swarms of families, men and women, who spilled out of their gender-segregated area.
An MC pumped out ear-splitting music in brief advertising breaks and pleaded with the chaotic crowd – overflowing with green flags and berserk dancers – who sprung to their feet as Pakistan’s bowlers put up a fight.
In the twilight, they held aloft their mobile phones, their torch apps turned on, chanting the names of their favourite players and wincing as the state TV stream showed rain in Melbourne – which could have stopped play.
“Don’t lose your energy,” the MC begged as the prospect of a Pakistani victory became more distant in the final overs.
Nonetheless, fans began to leave well before the final ball was bowled and their defeat sealed.
“We made it to the final miraculously, not through our performance, and we hoped that luck would favour us in the final as well,” said 25-year-old IT graduate Sufiyan Ali in Karachi.
“But dependence on luck only disappoints you.”