Pakistan cricket fans reacted largely with good grace and humour Friday to their team’s exit from the Twenty20 World Cup, after an unbeaten run to the semi-finals had given the nation hope they could win the title for a second time.
The team bowed out on Thursday night, losing by five wickets to Australia in a see-saw match in Dubai settled with an over to spare.
The national mood was summed up by Prime Minister Imran Khan — a former captain and one of cricket’s all-time greats — who said the side should be proud.
“I know exactly how all of you are feeling right now bec I have faced similar disappointments on the cricket field,” he tweeted.
“But you shd all be proud of the quality of cricket you played & the humility you showed in your wins.”
He also congratulated Australia, who face neighbours New Zealand in Sunday’s final.
Tens of thousands of fans gathered on Thursday night in parks, clubs and shopping malls to watch the semi-final, which was broadcast on giant screens erected for the occasion.
It was very much a party atmosphere, particularly as the Pakistani opening pair flayed the Australian attack, before a wobble saw the team finish on 176-4 after 20 overs.
Some were prematurely celebrating victory as the first Australian wicket fell for just one run. But the bubble burst and the Aussies bashed their way to victory — Matthew Wade finishing with a spectacular three sixes in a row.
Fans on social media heaped blame for the loss on Hasan Ali, vilified after dropping a catch at a key point of the match.
But many more leapt to his defence, pointing out how many times he had won games for Pakistan.
“We were struck dumb and all clutched our heads,” said Areeba Shakeel, a technology student who watched with friends at a shopping mall in Karachi.
“Everybody was blaming Hasan for the defeat,” she told AFP.
Amna Baig, a police officer with a huge social media presence in the country, had urged her followers not to fire weapons in the air in the event of a Pakistan victory — a common occurrence often with fatal consequences.
“At least we are safe from aerial firing tonight,” she tweeted after the match.
“Thank Hasan Ali,” came one reply.
Shaniera Akram, the Australian wife of Pakistan cricket great Wasim Akram, told her followers where her loyalties lay after the match.
“No matter where my feet are, my heart seems to always be in Pakistan!” she tweeted.