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South Africa succumbed to spin but they also succumbed to two Umars who came of age. When Pakistan's batsmen fritter away their opportunity, Umar Gul sometimes smites a few long balls as a release valve on everybody's frustration.
It was only a matter of time before those Pathan smacks would make the difference in a match. From now on, when Pakistan's top order is in brainless mode, it will offer some solace to remember: never fear, Gullay is near.
At 76 for 7 Pakistan were all but done, a meagre target made monumental. South Africa's spinners had matched, even surpassed, their celebrated counterparts from Pakistan. But it was typical of Pakistan to choose the least plausible route to victory, and a strong position in this difficult group.
Indeed, Pakistan's comedic batting performance reminded everybody why this Pakistan team is succeeding despite its flaws, with the biggest questions surrounding the longevity of two of its most experienced players, Messrs Malik and Afridi: one too slow the other too rash.
The partnership between Umars saved blushes. Gul provided an adrenalin rush. However, it might be Umar Akmal who benefits most from sensibly guiding his team in unexpectedly challenging circumstances. Akmal attacked early in each over, an age-old method to ease pressure, and otherwise resisted throwing his wicket away. For a man known as an unreliable finisher, Akmal's measured final-over six off Morne Morkel set up a finish to relish.
Dav Whatmore has work to do. He knows that. But his team are doing what they do best, strutting the fine and life-shortening line between success and failure.
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets hereFeeds: Kamran Abbasi
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi