Pakistan win in stunning turnaround
Pakistan snatched an incredible 67 run win against South Africa at Sharjah today to end a run of 14 consecutive losses against the Proteas and go into the final on Friday holding the psychological whiphand. Shoaib Akhtar made the initial breach in the South African wall with a three wicket burst in his fourth over, and the 17th of the innings, and although he then walked off with a groin injury his fellow quicks, Messrs. Akram, Younis and Razzaq were good enough to complete the job. Earlier, Gary Kirsten had been helped off the field after straining his back but South Africa appeared to be breezing to victory on the back of a run a ball second wicket partnership between Gibbs and Boucher that took the score to 71/1 at the end of 15 overs.
A sensational 17th over from Shoaib turned the tide of the match to such good effect that suddenly Pakistan were the hunters and South Africa the hunted. Off the first ball Mark Boucher tried to pull a short one that was suspiciously close to shoulder height and got a top edge through to Boucher. The fourth ball of the over knocked back Dale Benkenstein's off stump as the batsman played inside the line. And the sixth ball pierced Lance Klusener's defences as well, also for a duck, to leave South Africa at 74/4.
Wasim Akram was immediately brought back and off the last ball of the 18th over, he had Shaun Pollock pushing at one away from his body and getting a nibble to Inzamam at second slip who showed surprising agility for so bulky a man. Pollock was the third successive duck in the middle order and Pieter Strydom joined Gibbs with the score at 75. Shoaib then bowled a blinder that went through Moin's gloves for four byes but after the third ball his groin muscle began playing up and he walked off to let Abdur Razzaq complete the over for him.
And incredibly Razzaq got a wicket in that half over when Peter Manuel raised the finger to a ball that seemed to be swinging down the leg side as it struck the unfortunate Strydom on the pad. Another duck and at 80/6, for all practical purposes 80/7 with Gary Kirsten unlikely to resume his innings, the South Africans were on the ropes. What a turnaround! Five wickets had fallen in the space of 18 balls for the addition of six runs. Herschelle Gibbs had watched all the drama from the other end and duly completed his 50 from 62 balls in the 22nd over.
Derek Crookes got off the mark by scampering a single but after making five he tried to take on the arm of Younis Khan at mid on and was comfortably run out by a direct hit in the 24th over. 89/7 the score and Shoaib who'd come back onto the field earlier was allowed to have a bowl after waiting out an appropriate period. He started the 25th over but decided that the pain was too much and walked off again.
The Pakistani juggernaut rolled on as Waqar castled Nantie Hayward for 1 in the 26th over to leave them at 94/8. And with the score on 101 Abdur Razzaq brought an end to the proceedings from the fifth ball of the 27th over by bowling last man Charl Willoughby for the fifth duck of the innings. Gibbs was left high and dry on 59 (79 balls) and Pakistan had snatched the most amazing victory in a long time by the whopping margin of 67 runs. Shoaib finished with 3/9 from 4.5 overs while Razzaq and Waqar picked up two apiece and Akram one.
Earlier an inept batting display by Pakistan saw them fall away for 168 in the 50th over after Moin Khan's luck with the toss continued for the fourth game in a row. Of course this was merely a dry run before the final but the cumulative effect of 14 consecutive losses to South Africa before today's game must surely have been weighing in the minds of the Pakistanis and they desperately needed a victory in order to go into the final in a positive frame of mind.
Pakistan started off on the wrong foot as both the youngsters, Imran Nazir and Younis Khan, fell cheaply. Shahid Afridi was just getting into his stride when he went for a horrendous slog and missed, to have his leg stump rearranged. Sure that's the way he plays but you do wonder if this is the same batsman who scored 141 in a Test match against India just over a year ago. To make matters worse Inzamam was in nothing like the touch he was against India two days ago and pottered around for 52 balls to make 17 before he got the rough end of the stick from Peter Manuel on a leg before decision.
One run later a fantastic return catch from Hayward saw off Moin Khan for a first ball duck and these two blows in quick succession just about knocked the stuffing out of Pakistan. Reeling at 61/5, Yousuf Youhana and Abdur Razzaq gamely tried to keep a partnership going as they added 35 in slightly over ten overs in the most fruitful association of the innings before Razzaq ran himself out. The only goal now was to occupy the crease for the full fifty overs and Wasim Akram assisted Youhana in keeping the South Africans at bay for another ten overs before a few late blows from Youhana took Pakistan to 168.