September 16, 2012

Afridi sinks South Africa, and Sri Lanka's new tricks

Our reporters look back on their favourite World Twenty20 matches
  shares 19

Pakistan v South Africa, 1st semi-final, World Twenty20 2009

The warm-up: The first semi-final of the 2009 World Twenty20, in Nottingham, was contested by sides that played cricket in extremely different ways. South Africa were military: scarily fit, precision drilled, disciplined and in prime form. They looked like a team from a more advanced future and, having blitzed most opponents to enter the final four unbeaten, were favourites.

Pakistan were more familiar. They had dropped two games in the group stages, defeats caused by errors characteristic of a team that relied more on raw talent than any sort of method. The only strong side Pakistan had beaten was New Zealand. Younis Khan, the captain, had even made this bizarre comment after the loss to England: "It's not a disaster for Pakistan if we fail to qualify for [the] Super Eight round because this Twenty20 cricket is all about fun, though its an international but it's all a fun game."

And so it began, the semi-final between a team that was destined to be at Trent Bridge and a team that had somehow got there.

The match itself: South Africa did not choke. They were overwhelmed by a spirited Pakistan led by their most visceral, natural player - Shahid Afridi. Batting at No.3, he began by lofting his first ball, off one of the tournament's best bowlers Wayne Parnell, over mid-on for four, and continued to choose his moments well. There was no mad slog that been the end of so many Afridi innings. After hitting Jacques Kallis for two fours, Afridi blew him a cheeky little kiss. He tore into Johan Botha, hitting him inside out for three consecutive boundaries before cutting for the fourth in the over. Afridi made 51 off 34 balls and contributions from Shoaib Malik and Younis Khan led Pakistan to 149 for 4.

South Africa started smoothly, reaching 40 in the sixth over before Graeme Smith fell. Afridi came on in the seventh and ripped a leg break past Jacques Kallis' bat. Two balls later, Herschelle Gibbs played for the legspin but the ball skidded into him and through his defences. Afridi, Saeed Ajmal and Shoaib Malik slowed South Africa down and, even though Jacques Kallis made 64, no one batted around him. They were contained and fell seven runs short.

Highlight: In the over after he bowled Gibbs, Afridi produced a legbreak that found an outside edge from AB de Villiers. Kamran Akmal dropped it. The next ball was a slider; de Villiers tried to cut it but played on. Afridi stood mid-pitch, legs splayed, chest thrust out, right arm pointing skywards, drawing his team-mates like a magnet, exuding machismo.

Few cricketers can get a crowd going like Afridi can. The sizeable number of fans that had turned Trent Bridge into a home venue for Pakistan had already been stirred into frenzy by Afridi's innings, and his twin strikes only amped up the atmosphere. The DJ indulgence his audience, playing Dil, Dil, Pakistan and the fans sung passionately in unison. They partied hard during the game and long after, jamming the roads around the ground, clambering on top of cars and blaring horns during deliriously happy celebrations. Those Pakistan fans were a credit to the competition.

The aftermatch: Pakistan covered themselves in glory at Lord's, with Afridi playing another starring role against Sri Lanka in the final. Their victory brought joy to fans in Pakistan, who would not be able to watch international cricket at home for years, following the terror attack on the Sri Lankan team bus only a few months ago. Younis Khan promptly announced his retirement from the Twenty20 format at the post-match press conference.

South Africa were easily the best team in the tournament until that point and were left fielding questions with the C word. But it wasn't a choke, it was Shahid Afridi.

****

Sri Lanka v West Indies, 11th match, World Twenty20 2009

The warm-up: Sri Lanka, West Indies and Australia were pooled in Group C of the 2009 World Twenty20 in England. And because of Chris Gayle, Andre Fletcher, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis and Tillakaratne Dilshan, Australia had already been eliminated by the time Sri Lanka and West Indies met, so their contest at Trent Bridge was merely to decide which team would top the group.

The match itself: Chris Gayle missed the game because of a knee injury sustained against Australia and so it was Sri Lanka's left-hand opener, a much older Sanath Jayasuriya, who put on a show. Thriving on the width given to him, Jayasuriya cut and drove like he did in his heyday, and whipped balls off his pads when the line was too straight. His innings was a blur of boundaries square of the wicket and he dominated most of the early scoring.

However, when Dilshan hit his first boundary, he did so with what was later christened the Dilscoop, chipping Kieron Pollard over the wicketkeeper's head. The shot and its variants are common now but at the time the world had onlyseen it once, when Dilshan had played it against Australia. Two balls later he cracked Pollard over the point boundary and Sri Lanka were firing from both ends. The opening partnership was a thundery 124 by the time Jayasuriya fell in the 13th over and Sri Lanka eventually made 192 for 5. Both openers had faced 47 balls: Jayasuriya made 81, Dilshan 74.

West Indies' chase began swiftly too, through Lendl Simmons and largesse from Sri Lanka's bowlers and fielders. They were 70 for 1 in the seventh over when Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis (M&Ms they were called) struck three times in eight balls, reducing West Indies to 73 for 4. The run-rate had to reduce thereafter but Dwayne Bravo kept his team in the game with a half-century. His dismissal in the 18th over - caught off Malinga - was what swung the game decisively Sri Lanka's way. They won by 15 runs and topped the toughest group in the tournament.

Highlight: Acrobatic feats on the boundary have proliferated over the last couple of years, but they were a rarity in 2009 and Angelo Mathews' pioneering effort at Trent Bridge will still rank among the best. Ramnaresh Sarwan lofted Ajantha Mendis towards the long-on boundary, where Mathews back-pedalled to take a well-judged catch while still on the move. Realising his momentum was going to take him over the rope and result in a six, Mathews lobbed the ball up in the air and then stepped over the boundary. He whipped around quickly to see that the ball was descending over the boundary and showed incredible presence of mind to leap into the air and forehand the ball back into play. The whole act was done in a couple of seconds. He hit the non-striker's stumps directly from the deep as well, by which time the batsmen had run three, and after endless replays the umpires decided that Mathews' brilliance in the field had indeed saved Sri Lanka three runs.

The aftermatch: West Indies finished second in their preliminary group and were second in their Super Eights group as well, by beating England and India, and losing to South Africa. They faced Sri Lanka once again, in the semi-final at The Oval, and lost by 57 runs. Dilshan plundered 96 and Mathews took three wickets in the first over to destroy the West Indian chase.

Sri Lanka won all three Super Eight group matches and beat West Indies in the semi-final to set up a summit clash against Pakistan at Lord's. It was a match between two teams that had been part of one of cricket's worst days - the terror attack during Sri Lanka's tour to Pakistan a few months ago. In the final, Dilshan was dismissed for a duck, and Sri Lanka were kept to 138, which Pakistan chased with eight wickets in hand and eight balls to spare.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY on | September 17, 2012, 22:10 GMT

    pakistan will win T20 world cup.

  • POSTED BY on | September 17, 2012, 18:02 GMT

    "In the over after he bowled Gibbs, Afridi produced a legbreak that found an outside edge from AB de Villiers. Kamran Akmal dropped it." Let the jealousies begin. Every Pakistani hero had to be brought down by Ejaz Butt thru his pets. 5 dropped catches in one test ended Danish Kaneria, and two dropped catches in 3 balls ended Shoaib Akhter.

  • POSTED BY da_man_ on | September 17, 2012, 15:02 GMT

    I was in the crowd, and us Pakistani fans were extremely nervous. Dili was in fearsome form. That first Mohd Aamir over set the stage, and his brief but incredible (and disgraced) career.

  • POSTED BY Prabhash1985 on | September 17, 2012, 12:16 GMT

    Those were darker days for Pakistan cricket as there were some problems with the political situation... I loved to see Sri Lanka win, but that win was more important for Pakistan than us... They are our brothers, and I was as happy as we won...

  • POSTED BY on | September 17, 2012, 7:43 GMT

    @Mihil - Who can forget that day....Pakistan deserved it emotionally...But SL was the best team in that tourney by a long long way...Sad day for us...But I can still remember that Dilshan innings against WI...OMG that was crispy batting...Better than and Action film...It was awesome...

  • POSTED BY Syed_imran_abbas on | September 17, 2012, 7:36 GMT

    That was an amazing WC. I hope BOOM BOOM clicks this time.

  • POSTED BY JanabAli on | September 17, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    How the editor forget the 19th over of Umer Gul in this match, 06 out 06 balls was beautifull Yorkers only few players can do this. I think this over was overturned the match result & SA plans...

  • POSTED BY Noman_Yousuf_Dandore on | September 17, 2012, 7:05 GMT

    Afridi v South Africa; what a match it was!!

  • POSTED BY Tahir_Anjum on | September 17, 2012, 2:25 GMT

    @ may_the_best_win: dude that catch was in PAK vs NZ match not in PAK vs SA

  • POSTED BY fuzzyeggs on | September 17, 2012, 0:08 GMT

    @maythebestwin that was agnst nz not sa D:

  • POSTED BY on | September 17, 2012, 22:10 GMT

    pakistan will win T20 world cup.

  • POSTED BY on | September 17, 2012, 18:02 GMT

    "In the over after he bowled Gibbs, Afridi produced a legbreak that found an outside edge from AB de Villiers. Kamran Akmal dropped it." Let the jealousies begin. Every Pakistani hero had to be brought down by Ejaz Butt thru his pets. 5 dropped catches in one test ended Danish Kaneria, and two dropped catches in 3 balls ended Shoaib Akhter.

  • POSTED BY da_man_ on | September 17, 2012, 15:02 GMT

    I was in the crowd, and us Pakistani fans were extremely nervous. Dili was in fearsome form. That first Mohd Aamir over set the stage, and his brief but incredible (and disgraced) career.

  • POSTED BY Prabhash1985 on | September 17, 2012, 12:16 GMT

    Those were darker days for Pakistan cricket as there were some problems with the political situation... I loved to see Sri Lanka win, but that win was more important for Pakistan than us... They are our brothers, and I was as happy as we won...

  • POSTED BY on | September 17, 2012, 7:43 GMT

    @Mihil - Who can forget that day....Pakistan deserved it emotionally...But SL was the best team in that tourney by a long long way...Sad day for us...But I can still remember that Dilshan innings against WI...OMG that was crispy batting...Better than and Action film...It was awesome...

  • POSTED BY Syed_imran_abbas on | September 17, 2012, 7:36 GMT

    That was an amazing WC. I hope BOOM BOOM clicks this time.

  • POSTED BY JanabAli on | September 17, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    How the editor forget the 19th over of Umer Gul in this match, 06 out 06 balls was beautifull Yorkers only few players can do this. I think this over was overturned the match result & SA plans...

  • POSTED BY Noman_Yousuf_Dandore on | September 17, 2012, 7:05 GMT

    Afridi v South Africa; what a match it was!!

  • POSTED BY Tahir_Anjum on | September 17, 2012, 2:25 GMT

    @ may_the_best_win: dude that catch was in PAK vs NZ match not in PAK vs SA

  • POSTED BY fuzzyeggs on | September 17, 2012, 0:08 GMT

    @maythebestwin that was agnst nz not sa D:

  • POSTED BY Nuxxy on | September 16, 2012, 21:25 GMT

    Graeme Smith lost that match for SA. Pakistan had the best old-ball attack at that point. You had to go guns blazing from the beginning. 10 runs of 14 balls caused a backlog that the team never recovered from. People blamed Kallis' strike rate, but his job was to anchor, and he did. Smith was meant to score at a minimum of 125, and if he had, SA would have won. I just hope they realise it this time around...Kallis opens and anchors, and his partner has to score at minimum of 125 or perish.

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 19:55 GMT

    what netherlands beating englanf doesnt get a mention??????

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 18:37 GMT

    That,s Why, People Called Him BOOM BOOM Afridi , He Can change the entire Match by his Bowling or Either his Batting, So Hope 4 the Best Go Green Go

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 16:52 GMT

    I remember that day, neck deep in A-Levels, month to exams. Sleep remained elusive that day. We deserved that trophy, unbeaten until that match, already beaten Pakistan, we just missed the beat!!

  • POSTED BY may_the_best_win on | September 16, 2012, 16:06 GMT

    Mr. George, you forgot to mention the catch which Afridi took in tht match, stretching his hands while sprinting towards the boundary... tht sure was a "One-Man Show" :D

  • POSTED BY EngineerKhan on | September 16, 2012, 15:28 GMT

    I still remember that match. Who doesn't in fact...It was my final semester's final viva on day after semi-final and I decided to go for (watching on TV) the semi-final and Alhamdulillah proven to be a right choice then.

    Well it was most smart innings one could ever see in a big match. Afridi ducked under the very first ball which was bouncer and didnt spare the next one which was pitched up. He was lucky to survive the couple of short ones from Kallis but after that, as they say is history..Consecutive 4 4s of Botha is to date most skillful display of batting in T20.

    When he bowled the very first delivery and Gibbs, the player always for big chases, driven him for four; I really got disappointed thinking he has already played the part in the match and can't expect him to repeat it with ball as well, but noone knew what was coming up next. The ball which spun past Kallis was one Warne would be proud of and accounted for Gibbs along with the huge in-drift. Best Ever T20 Performance!

  • POSTED BY ashi31 on | September 16, 2012, 14:37 GMT

    hahahahaha afridi always crreates the drama and when in form wins matches singlehandedly :)

  • POSTED BY getsetgopk on | September 16, 2012, 13:43 GMT

    Lord Afridi LOL

  • POSTED BY ShehanJ on | September 16, 2012, 13:13 GMT

    2012 T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka. No Jayasuriya. No Murali. Dilshan not in the best form of his life. India beat them in a practice match by 26 runs yesterday. Afghanistan beat Sri Lanka A team as well in a practice match yesterday. Things aren't looking that good for the host country. :)

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  • POSTED BY ShehanJ on | September 16, 2012, 13:13 GMT

    2012 T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka. No Jayasuriya. No Murali. Dilshan not in the best form of his life. India beat them in a practice match by 26 runs yesterday. Afghanistan beat Sri Lanka A team as well in a practice match yesterday. Things aren't looking that good for the host country. :)

  • POSTED BY getsetgopk on | September 16, 2012, 13:43 GMT

    Lord Afridi LOL

  • POSTED BY ashi31 on | September 16, 2012, 14:37 GMT

    hahahahaha afridi always crreates the drama and when in form wins matches singlehandedly :)

  • POSTED BY EngineerKhan on | September 16, 2012, 15:28 GMT

    I still remember that match. Who doesn't in fact...It was my final semester's final viva on day after semi-final and I decided to go for (watching on TV) the semi-final and Alhamdulillah proven to be a right choice then.

    Well it was most smart innings one could ever see in a big match. Afridi ducked under the very first ball which was bouncer and didnt spare the next one which was pitched up. He was lucky to survive the couple of short ones from Kallis but after that, as they say is history..Consecutive 4 4s of Botha is to date most skillful display of batting in T20.

    When he bowled the very first delivery and Gibbs, the player always for big chases, driven him for four; I really got disappointed thinking he has already played the part in the match and can't expect him to repeat it with ball as well, but noone knew what was coming up next. The ball which spun past Kallis was one Warne would be proud of and accounted for Gibbs along with the huge in-drift. Best Ever T20 Performance!

  • POSTED BY may_the_best_win on | September 16, 2012, 16:06 GMT

    Mr. George, you forgot to mention the catch which Afridi took in tht match, stretching his hands while sprinting towards the boundary... tht sure was a "One-Man Show" :D

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 16:52 GMT

    I remember that day, neck deep in A-Levels, month to exams. Sleep remained elusive that day. We deserved that trophy, unbeaten until that match, already beaten Pakistan, we just missed the beat!!

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 18:37 GMT

    That,s Why, People Called Him BOOM BOOM Afridi , He Can change the entire Match by his Bowling or Either his Batting, So Hope 4 the Best Go Green Go

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 19:55 GMT

    what netherlands beating englanf doesnt get a mention??????

  • POSTED BY Nuxxy on | September 16, 2012, 21:25 GMT

    Graeme Smith lost that match for SA. Pakistan had the best old-ball attack at that point. You had to go guns blazing from the beginning. 10 runs of 14 balls caused a backlog that the team never recovered from. People blamed Kallis' strike rate, but his job was to anchor, and he did. Smith was meant to score at a minimum of 125, and if he had, SA would have won. I just hope they realise it this time around...Kallis opens and anchors, and his partner has to score at minimum of 125 or perish.

  • POSTED BY fuzzyeggs on | September 17, 2012, 0:08 GMT

    @maythebestwin that was agnst nz not sa D: