world has been cast aside. And Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the two Asian powerhouses, take each other on at Lord's today for the ultimate prize in the second ICC Twenty20 World Cup. Owing to some superb all-round performances, Lankans have remained unbeaten through the tournament. But after an agonising start and some more agony in the middle, the Pakistanis are peaking at the right time and have prevailed when it really mattered.
Against South Africa in the semi-final, Younis Khan and his men gave a sterling performance to send packing the other undefeated team of the tournament. Sri Lanka made it to the finals after ending the Calypsos adventure by a convincing win on Friday.
The finalists have faced each other once before in the tournament, during the Super Eights. Then Sri Lanka won by 19 runs but not before Pakistan had given them a scare or two of chasing down the target of 151.
Coming to the final, a bright sunny day is expected in London today and the settings can't be any better with the prospect of a big crowd and a ground that is ideal for cricket. The atmosphere and the aura of Lord's has inspired generations of cricketers to come up with great performances and this game provides both Pakistan and Sri Lanka the same.
For this all-important game, Pakistan captain Younis Khan has spelled it out to his boys: "Glory just a win away." Pakistan have defeated adversity and qualified for the final when all looked glum and murky. Having scored 172 runs in the tournament, on average at 57.33 per outing, Younis has led from the front. He was also the lead scorer for Pakistan the last time against Sri Lanka with an even 50. Given his superior technique while coping, he would again be the key man in the middle overs.
The Pakistan batting will have to stand up to a man if the day has to be won, for the Sri Lankan bowlers are in superb form and will pose the biggest threat to them. Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga are a formidable trio, and they have very fine backup in Angelo Mathews and Kulasekara, not to mention that old fox, Santh Jayasuriya.
Pakistan is expected to field the same eleven that took South Africa apart in the semi-final. A solid start by openers Kamran Akmal and Shahzaib Hasan will be vital for Pakistan. Kamran is hitting the ball crisply and should aim to convert his good starts into something big. Shahid Afridi came good with the bat in the semi-final with a pugnacious 51 off 34 balls but him delivering in successive games with the bat is something unheard of. But then these days he is in a different stratosphere, so anything is possible.
If Afridi manages to fire at number three, it will give Pakistan a huge boost. Given the high-pressure game the middle order should also make a concerted effort. Younis, Malik and Misbah also need to score well to supplement the team's cause.
Umar Gul is leading the bowling show for Pakistan, and what a job he has done The spin twins Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal are also weaving their own magic. In this milieu, this is the game when the other two frontline bowlers - Abdul Razzaq and Mohammad Aamer - will be required to chip in handsomely. Sri Lankans are a proficient and in-form batting line-up and you can expect them to up their game even further for the final. Tillakaratne Dilshan will be the main batsman for Sri Lanka and if Pakistan get him early they can surely peg back the Lankans.
Nothing can be taken for granted in this final. Sri Lankans will be more than eager to do well and the form is with them as well. Pakistan meanwhile have got themselves into a nice groove and have reacquainted themselves with the art of winning. And this is vital.
Another complete performance like the one against South Africa will be required by Pakistan to win the tournament and bring smiles and joys to the millions of fans back home. As Younis has already pointed, the men in green need to win this tournament for the people of Pakistan and a victory today can go a long way in uniting the people and reinvigorate the spark that has been taken away due to the instability in the country.
Younis and his men know exactly what's required of them and they just need to go out there and enjoy their game, avoid taking pressure and give it their all. The competition will be tough and it's a final where it doesn't matter if you bat first or second - whatever the situation you have to fight it out and win the final hurdle.