Afridi proud of Pakistan's performance

Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi said the performance of his side's younger players had been among the positives of a World Cup campaign that ended with a 29-run semi-final loss to India. And he said he hoped Wednesday's match, watched by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani, would be the catalyst for more games on Indian soil.

Pakistan have been unable to play matches at home since an armed attack on Sri Lanka's team bus in Lahore in 2009.
Now Afridi wants to see the restoration of normal cricket ties with India as part of his country's sporting rehabilitation.

And also Afridi pronounced himself "proud" of his team's performance in the World Cup and hoped that their reception on arrival in Pakistan would reflect the side's achievement in getting to the last four at a time when expectations were significantly lower.

Pakistan lost by 29 runs to India in Mohali in the Semi final match, in which they were generally off their game with bat, ball and, most damagingly, in the field. They were in with a chance at various stages, including when they began the chase, only to let it slip each time.

Afridi said the batting, their weaker suit, had been problematic again. There were several starts but no stand greater than the opening one of 44.

Pakistan cricket has been under a cloud since last year's 'spot-fixing' scandal in England which led to bans for new-ball duo Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif as well as former Test captain Salman Butt.

To add to the instability, Afridi wasn't appointed captain until two weeks before the tournament began but an unheralded Pakistan side beat Sri Lanka, Australia and West Indies en route to the semi-final.

Afridi had said before the tournament he wanted his team in the last four and despite the loss, seemed in generally upbeat mood. "I am proud of my team and the boys have done a great job in this World Cup. A few of the youngsters are very promising and we played as a unit. Winning and losing is something different but we really played really good cricket and no one was expecting us to play cricket like this. As captain I'm very happy."

The run was Pakistan's best in a World Cup since 1999, when they were runners-up to Australia. In 2003 and 2007 they were eliminated before the knock-out stages, disastrous results which led to intense anger and criticism on their return. It is unlikely Afridi's side will receive a similar reception though already the early signs of reaction from Pakistan seemed to focus on Misbah-ul-Haq's slow batting in the chase as the cause of defeat.

India now face Sri Lanka, beaten by Pakistan in the group phase, in Saturday's final in Mumbai and Afridi could not pick a winner.

"Both teams are playing very good cricket, both teams are well balanced."

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