Umar and spinners knock South Africa out
South Africa were knocked out of the World Twenty20 by living up to their reputation of coming up short in crunch matches with an inexplicably limp batting display after a Charl Langeveldt masterclass in end-innings bowling had kept Pakistan to a gettable total. The bedrock of the defending champions' first victory in the Super Eights were Saeed Ajmal's doosras and a sparkling Umar Akmal cameo, but Pakistan will also thank the redoubtable South African top-order for idling early in the chase.
Like in the first-round game against India, South Africa left the onslaught for too late. On a track which didn't have too many demons, they were just three fours and three twos in the first ten overs from a line-up boasting some of the world's finest hitters. AB de Villiers responded to the climbing asking-rate with some belated power-hitting, but once he fell attempting an audacious scoop, Pakistan's bowlers choked the runs again and South Africa went down by 11 runs.
There was still hope for South Africa after de Villiers fell, with two of the game's best finishers, Mark Boucher and Albie Morkel, needing 47 off the final four. But neither could get the ball away against the spinners, and few would have guessed that most of South Africa's runs at the death would come from Johan Botha. Morkel was silenced by Pakistan's plan of targeting his leg stump, and his ineffectiveness was highlighted by a dab to backward point for one to a shortish doosra from Ajmal off the first delivery of the final over when 17 was required.
But it will be churlish to blame the lower-order, after the top three, each of whom have nearly a decade's worth of international experience, consumed 43 balls for their 38 runs. Herschelle Gibbs who has been hit-or-miss for a long time now, pottered around before slugging a short ball to midwicket. Graeme Smith's ordinary tournament ended with a tame miscue to mid-on, and questions about the tempo of Jacques Kallis' batting will resurface after he poked 22 at just more than a run-a-ball before holing out to long-on.
The match was slipping away from South Africa when they were at 71 for 4 after 13, but de Villiers exploded with a four and two sixes in one Abdur Rehman over to keep it alive. The second of those brought up his half-century, and a roar from a pumped-up de Villiers but when his attempted scoop off yet another Ajmal doosra lobbed to the keeper, Pakistan were back in charge.
In contrast to the listless batting, South Africa's bowlers were immaculate at the start to keep Pakistan's traditionally fragile top-order to 19 for 3, the worst performance in the first six overs in this competition. Exhibit A in the gallery of poor shots was from Salman Butt, who pulled a short and wide delivery that he would have been better off looking to cut. Then the man picked to strengthen the batting, Khalid Latif, chipped to wide mid-on before Mohammad Hafeez's troubles with the bat continued when he was lbw for 1.
The Akmal brothers started the firefighting by taking on the spinners. Roelof van der Merwe was taken apart by a bunch of slog-sweeps and Kamran's powerful cut off Botha brought four more to double the total in two overs to 46. van der Merwe was clobbered for three straight sixes in five deliveries before Gibbs swooped at backward point to get rid of Kamran, but with Pakistan batting down to No. 8 the game was even at 69 for 4 after 11.
The flood of runs continued with arrival of Afridi. Umar wowed the crowd with a paddle-scoop over short fine off the pacy Kallis, and Afridi muscled boundaries over cover and midwicket. The horrors at the start were completely forgotten by the sprinkling of Pakistan fans in the ground after Umar scuttled across the stumps to swing Albie over deep backward square leg and Afridi absolutely hammered a flat six over long-on to take Pakistan to 102 for 4 after 14, with the finisher Abdul Razzaq still to come.
Three fours were taken off a Dale Steyn over and Umar was flamboyantly celebrating his half-century after blasting Langeveldt for a straight six on the first delivery of the 17th. Things unraveled swiftly from there, with Umar holing out to long-on and Afridi being bowled by a full delivery from Langeveldt three balls later. There were no more boundaries and Pakistan finished with a whimper, only 16 coming off the final three.
However, Pakistan lived up to their billing of being most dangerous when cornered by stubbornly defending the small total to retain an outside chance of progressing to the semi-finals.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo