Umar Akmal Guides Pakistan To Nerve-Jangling Win
Pakistan 136-8 (U Akmal 43no) beat
South Africa 133-6 (Duminy 48) by 2 wickets
ICC World T20, Group 2 Match, Colombo
Report by Chetan Narula in Colombo
In a great start to the second Super Eights leg to be played in Colombo, Pakistan trumped South Africa by two wickets. They won the match with two balls to spare, after spending much of their innings batting in peril.
Umar Akmal and Umar Gul guided their team home in the last over as the R. Premadasa Stadium came to life after waiting for so long. Man of the Match Gul came to bat when Pakistan were seven wickets down for 76 runs in the fifteenth over. Having bowled just two overs in the afternoon, he then decided to chip in with the bat, scoring 32 runs off only 17 balls. He hit two fours and three sixes to help his side leap to victory from their precarious position.
The bigger role though was played by the younger Akmal. He came in at number six, and his unbeaten 43 runs off 41 balls were very important in the context of the game. Just by staying there till the end, he locked up one end and frustrated South African bowlers to no end. So much so that experienced hands such as Jacques Kallis and Albie Morkel gave away 36 runs in two overs – seventeen and eighteen – leading Pakistan to the doorstep of victory. He hit four fours and a lone six, that one coming in the last over of the match and destroying Proteas’ hopes.
Prior to this, Robin Peterson, included in the playing eleven for this match, had given South Africa a sniff of victory. He removed Hafeez (15) and Nasir Jamshed (0) in the fourth over, and then Johan Botha bowled Kamran Akmal (1) in the seventh one, leaving them tottering at 37 for four. Shoaib Malik (12) avoided the loss of another wicket with Umar Akmal but as the run-rate climbed he holed out. As did Shahid Afridi, out caught in the deep for another golden duck! Despite this pressure Pakistan fought on and South Africa, well, choked again to perish just with the finish line in sight.
Earlier, AB de Villiers won the toss and elected to bat first. The slowness of the pitch wasn’t apparent before the toss, for pitches in previous games here didn’t afford that much turn. Even the India-England match wasn’t a pointer because of bad shot-making. However, much to the Proteas’ chagrin, Raza Hasan was asked to open the bowling. The 20 year-old left-arm bowler put them in a fix with his slow turn.
South Africa got off to poor start, losing Hashim Amla to Yasir Arafat, the medium-pacer Pakistan preferred ahead of Umar Gul to open the bowling. Once he was gone, the spinners came on from both ends to choke the scoring in initial overs. Richard Levi and promoted in the order after group games, Jacques Kallis, just couldn’t get the ball away. They were at 27 for one in five overs and their desperation was beginning to show. Saeed Ajmal then bowled Richard Levi and in the next over, skipper Mohammad Hafeez removed Kallis, who gave a very simple catch to Shahid Afridi.
At the end of seven overs, South Africa were in trouble at 31 for three. But AB de Villiers held himself back, sending out JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien (18) ahead of him. They put on 38 runs for the fourth wicket. Duminy top scored with 48 runs off 38 balls, including two fours and two sixes, but couldn’t provide the platform the skipper desired. When he finally did come out to bat, he could only add another 25 runs individually. So the plot somewhat backfired on them, especially since he didn’t appear to be in any trouble at the crease and only got out to speed up the scoring. His dismissal left his side some 20 runs short in the end, and it was all the difference on the day.
South Africa take on Australia next, on Sunday afternoon, while Pakistan clash with arch-rivals India later in the evening.
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