South Africa appeared to be set to finally break their duck on the big stage at this years ICC World Twenty20 tournament, after all the Proteas have been the bookies favourite to go all the way and the way they blew away all that came before them to reach the semi-finals suggested to this years tournament was their destiny.
However the reality is that South Africa have once again fallen short in a semi-final losing on this occasion to Pakistan, whose star player Shahid Afridi finally came to the party and turned in a fantastic all-round performance.
South Africa's captain Graeme Smith was understandably disappointed with his team’s performance but instead of dwelling on South Africa's poor record in major semi-finals Smith gave credit to Pakistan and in particular Afridi.
"The boys did as best as they could but we came across a very good Pakistan team today,” he conceded. “In particular, Shahid Afridi had a spectacular game with bat and with ball and I think we were just beaten on the day. I am proud of the way the guys fought right till the end there, but it was just not enough,” he added.
Many felt that Albie Morkel would have been sent out to try and lift South Africa's run rate but Smith said that Morkel had been padded up from very early on but because his team weren’t losing wickets, Morkel did not have the opportunity to bat as early as they would have liked.
"We had him padded up from about the 11th or 12th over to come in but if you don’t lose a wicket you cant come in and bat so it is unfortunate. After losing those quick wickets, JP [Duminy] is a good player of spin, and he has batted well for us for a long time, we had Albie ready to go but it never happened.”
Pakistan's captain Younus Khan said that this tournament summed up his team, making a slow start and then playing inspirational cricket and he added that he is confident of putting in one more solid performance that would see Pakistan lift the cup on Sunday.
"Whenever we play in England we get a lot of support and it is good,” he said. “Everybody knows we are slow starters, we came here late, and we had no practise session at that time, but it is good. We were the underdog and there was no pressure on us and now suddenly we are in a good position. I think we will be winning this World Cup."
Shahid Afridi was named man of the match for his brilliant all round performance, he scored 51 with the bat and then picked up two for 16 from his four overs with the ball. Afridi was thankful to his captain and coach for their support.
"I really want to thank the captain and the coach,” he said. “They gave me good confidence and I said to them I want to bat at number three or open and they let me and after that I really enjoyed my batting, bowling and fielding.”
© Cricket World 2009