Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd semi-final, U-19 World Cup March 1, 2008

'Pakistan went off the ball' - Jennings

Rain may have forced play on the reserve day, but South Africa coach Ray Jennings believes Pakistan did themselves in by taking excess breaks while batting on Friday © George Binoy

After a wait that seemed interminable on the reserve day, the momentum in the semi-final swung South Africa's way off the very first ball. Pieter Malan had one more delivery to complete the 19th over of Pakistan's innings and he strayed down leg side. The wicketkeeper Bradley Barnes moved quickly to cover the line of the ball and, once Umar Amin had overbalanced, he whipped the bails off in a trice to stump the batsman even as the umpire signalled wide. Some people called it a lucky break but South Africa's coach Ray Jennings said it was anything but.

"We set out to try and control the first ten balls today," Jennings said. "The wicketkeeper was picked because he was the best in the country and he can stand up to someone like Wayne Parnell [the left-arm medium-fast bowler]. You haven't seen the best of him yet, he can stand up to the stumps from the first ball."

Barnes has been standing up to the stumps to South Africa's medium-pacers once the shine wears off. On Saturday, the ploy of having fielders in the circle worked as several Pakistan batsmen holed out while trying to clear the in-field.

"I always believed that if we got a score like 260, no side is going to bat second and beat us," Jennings said. "The only way they could have beaten us was if the rain affected the game through some sort of calculation. Nine out of ten times teams don't make that score. We really bowled badly last night to start off with but I was quite confident that it was a matter of time before Pakistan collapsed."

The situation overnight though was precarious. Had there been seven more balls, the game would have been decided by the Duckworth/Lewis method and there would have been no need to come back on the reserve day. When play was called off, Pakistan needed five runs off seven balls to win the game on the D/L method, albeit without losing a wicket. Jennings felt Pakistan had read the situation poorly, for there were frequent interruptions which slowed down the pace of the game and hindered the completion of 20 overs.

"Pakistan really went off the ball last night," Jennings said. "They interrupted the game 4-5 times with [by calling for] batting gloves and water. So if they hadn't done that they might have played the final. I think they interrupted themselves and paid the penalty."

The South Africans, however, were extremely pleased with the game going into the reserve day for as JJ Smuts, the opening batsman said: "It's much easier to score six an over off 20 overs. It's difficult to do over 50. In a shorter game the chances become a lot tighter. We backed ourselves to win if we played a full 50 overs to win the game."

George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo