The T20 World Cup finally got underway in Dubai, with some stellar performances catching the eye.
Whilst England displayed their devastating bowling attack and Australia their ability to grind out results, one side stole the headlines for their incredible all-round showing.
Few fancied Pakistan to cause old foes India too much trouble when the sides were drawn out to face each other first but who wrong could they have been.
Having won the toss, Pakistan put India into bat and restricted them to 151/7 from their 20 overs, Shaheen Afridi starring with the ball in hand – snaring 3/31 off his 4 overs.
The truly remarkable showing followed though, as Babar Azam (68*) and Mohammad Rizwan (79*) took the Indian bowling attack to all parts – to wrap up an incredible 10-wicket win for Pakistan.
A result made all the more remarkable by the fact Pakistan had never beaten India in any ICC Cricket World Cup match and duly ended their 29 years of pain in elite level cricket competition.
The attention of the world is now on this Pakistan team, with pundits and fans alike now asking, how far can they go at the 2021 T20 World Cup.
Pakistan to win their second T20 World Cup title?
Back in 2009, a similarly unfancied Pakistan side were able to upset the established order of elite cricket and clinch their maiden T20 World Cup title.
Shahid Afridi was the hero 12 years ago, steering his side to victory at Lords over an experienced and capable Sri Lankan side in the final.
The parallels have already been drawn to some degree in 2021, with Pakistan’s talent laden side often overlooked by the prediction makers in the game and they could sneak under the radar again this time around.
Captain Babar Azam is one of the very best around in limited overs cricket and the familiarity of the facilities in Dubai, Sharjah, and Oman (with Pakistan having played many games there in recent years due to the political situation) will only play into their hands.
The greens were as much as 7/1 with some british bookmakers to win the T20 World Cup at the start of the tournament but their big win over India has now seen them come into 7/2 with Bet 365 offer to lift the trophy for a second time.
Babar the National Hero?
Cricket is the national sport in Pakistan and the viewing figures across the country are absolutely staggering.
Captain Babar Azam’s status in the eye of most Pakistan cricket supporters is relatively untouchable already, with the batsman known for his track record at producing results for the national team.
However, should the opening batsman manage to bring home the coveted T20 World Cup trophy, his legendary status in his native Pakistan is assured.
Opening up with an unbeaten 68 against a dangerous Indian attack in game 1 bodes well for Azam, who is 5/6 with Betway to finish the tournament as Pakistan’s top run scorer and 6/1 with the same bookmaker to top the overall run charts in the competition.
Shaheen coming of age
It is hard to believe that fast bowler Shaheen Afridi is only 21 years of age, such is the amount of time he has spent in and around the Pakistan side – across all formats of the game.
His potential is undoubted and with the white-ball in hand, there are very few pace bowlers around on the international circuit currently.
With speed and variation, he had way too much for the Indian batters in the opening game, taking 3/31 and he is 10/11 with 888 Sport to be Pakistan’s top wicket taker at the tournament, whilst he looks good value at 8/1 with Paddy Power to be the leading wicket taker in the whole tournament