KARACHI: A rejuvenated Pakistan put their recent dismal form aside to successfully choke a formidable South Africa and revive hopes for a semi-final place of the 2010 World Twenty20.
In a repeat of the semi-final last year, Pakistan saved their best for the Proteas, restricting them to 137 for seven and claiming the all-important win by 11 runs. The modest 148-run total never looked enough, especially after yet another poor start restricted Pakistan to 18 for three in five overs. However, Umar Akmal and captain Shahid Afridi, both of them under fire for consistent poor performance, showed their skill with the bat and in the field to lead the shock win.
Umar first top-scored for Pakistan with a 33-ball 51 and then took a brilliant diving catch to dismiss danger-man Jacques Kallis and the defending champions’ feeble work in the field during the past matches hit new heights in the crunch encounter. Umar launched into Roelof van der Merwe and slogged him over midwicket before lofting him over long-off for another maximum. The teenager continued his assault against the South Africans by flicking Kallis over square-leg for his third six before completing the rout with a slog-swept maximum. Afridi, too, played a typically aggressive innings in reminiscence of his match-winnings half-century at Trent Bridge last year as he drove and pulled Kallis for successive boundaries.
Rash stroke-play did accompany him as soon as he entered the field but a brutal six off a low Albie Morkel full-toss sent out a harsh warning to the opposition. Pakistan managed 38 runs in the last five overs as Umar and Afridi perished in the same over, trying to slog their team past 150. The total, however, proved enough against the South Africans who yet again underlined their inability to counter spin bowling. Abdur Rehman and Saeed Ajmal shared six of the seven wickets to fall, including three wickets in three overs from Ajmal, as no batsman bar AB de Villiers provided able resistance.
Pakistan, surprisingly, held onto every catch thrown at them by the South Africans, with Misbahul Haq’s sharp take at midwicket aptly complementing Umar’s delight. Ajmal continued to flux batsmen with his spin, as South Africa lost regular wickets without having a positive effect on the asking rate. With 17 needed off the last over, Ajmal’s accuracy and adjusted pace ensured the batsmen were left dazed and unable to strike the much-needed boundaries as Pakistan rounded off their otherwise-poor Super Eight campaign with a convincing win, leaving England to help their cause on the way.
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Published in the Express Tribune, May 11th, 2010.