ISLAMABAD: Disappointed Pakistani cricket fans on Wednesday blamed a sluggish Misbahul-Haq for defeat in the World Cup semi-final thriller with arch-rival India.
“We lost because of Misbah, as he did not score well when it was most required,” angry fan Awais Shakir told AFP on Islamabad’s main Jinnah Avenue as thousands of disappointed viewers were leaving screenings of the match.
“He just wasted time on the pitch.”
Fans in other Pakistani cities which ground to a halt for the game also criticised Misbah, who scored a lacklustre 56 from 76 balls. His slow play pushed the Pakistan towards defeat before the 50th over.
For schoolteacher Hazrat Ali, it was disappointing – but not the end of the game.
“Defeat and win is part of the game. Our team will win next time,” he said.
In Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, engineer Mohammad Ali said: “It was a great contest all along and the day belonged to India. However Misbah and Younis Khan were very lazy.”
The government had declared a half-day holiday in offices and schools to enable the cricket-mad population to enjoy the game.
Special prayers were offered in mosques and at homes, and people recited verses from the Koran, praying to Allah to guide the Pakistani team to victory.
By the evening all major roads in several Pakistani cities were gridlocked with cars, motorcycles and jubilant revellers, but the festive atmosphere turned tense as the Pakistani batting line began to fall before India.
Power cuts sparked protests by hundreds of angry spectators who blocked a main highway in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir.
Motorists listened to the commentary on their car radios and shouted out the latest score to passers-by at a busy intersection in Islamabad.
Excitement reached fever pitch as shopkeepers flogged green T-shirts, caps and souvenirs, and networking sites Facebook and Twitter buzzed with comments on the wickets’ falls and player’s performance — and prayers for the squad.
Young people were seen wearing the green T-shirts of the Pakistani squad, their faces painted in the nation’s green and white, in the northwestern city of Peshawar, while large national flags flew from buildings, houses and cars.
In the eastern city of Lahore, which borders with India, more than 20,000 Pakistanis thronged the Gaddafi stadium to witness the match on large screens. Entry was free and people formed long queues to get in.
In Karachi residents blocked many roads and set up huge screens to watch the live broadcast from the Indian town of Mohali.
By the end of the day, 30 people were brought to hospitals across Karachi after being wounded by stray bullets fired during the festivities, hospital officials said.
Even prison authorities in the city made special arrangements for inmates to watch the match and gave Indian team shirts to some 200 Indian prisoners.
In Rawalpindi, revellers danced to drums in a market and shouted “Long live the Pakistan team”, “We will win” and “Give your best, we are with you”.
Whenever an Indian wicket fell, people jumped and danced in jubilation and fired gunshots into the air.
In Islamabad people gathered around screens — including a huge screen mounted on the Stock Exchange building — letting out screams of excitement when a player hit a four or faced a fierce delivery.
Large crowds, including women and children, gathered at the lush green Fatima Jinnah park and waved Pakistani flags in support of their team, while elsewhere, the streets were deserted after midday.