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Aussie win restored team’s image: Afridi

COLOMBO- Pakistan’s World Cup victory over Australia has restored the team’s battered image and boosted their credentials as champions-in-waiting, skipper Shahid Afridi said on Monday.

Pakistan upstaged Australia by four wickets to end the defending champions’ unbeaten 34-match streak in the World Cup stretching back to 1999. It also meant Pakistan finished top of Group A and gave them a quarterfinal clash against the West Indies in Dhaka on Wednesday while Australia tackle India in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

“We knew that beating Australia would be very important for us and this win has enhanced our image, sending a good signal to the cricket world that we can win despite our difficult situation,” Afridi said. Pakistan entered the tournament on the back of a spot-fixing scandal which led to lengthy bans on former Test captain Salman Butt and pacemen M Asif and M Aamer.

The three men are also facing criminal proceedings in the United Kingdom. Pakistan has also been a no-go area for international teams since the terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore two years ago. Those attacks, which killed eight people and injured seven Sri Lankan players and their assistant coach, forced the International Cricket Council to strip Pakistan of its 2011 World Cup co-hosting rights.

Afridi said Pakistan still has a deep well of natural cricketing talent. “Despite all the problems Pakistan is blessed with talent and it’s because of this talent that we are a dangerous team and can win against anyone. We now hope to carry on the momentum,” said Afridi.