Shahid Afridi carried Pakistan into the Super Eights at the expense of a spirited but outclassed Dutch side at Lord's, as he ripped his top-spinning legbreaks through a succession of bamboozled defences to deliver his team a thumping 82-run victory with the superb figures of 4 for 11 from four overs. For the Netherlands, the end came with unseemly haste as they lost their last nine wickets for 52 in 10.2 overs, but they still left the tournament with their heads held high after last week's unforgettable floodlit triumph over England.
Today, however, the greater class and knowhow of the Pakistanis came to the fore. They produced a chastened display after their error-strewn effort against England at The Oval on Sunday, and though their batting was kept on a tight leash by some determined Dutch bowling, the prospect of defeat was never seriously entertained. Netherlands were set 176 for victory, but thanks to their superior net run-rate going into this game, they could still have gone through with a score of 151 or more. In the end, the calculations were academic.
Netherlands were given a typically brief but belligerent start from their pinch-hitter, Darron Reekers, who smashed three fours from his first five balls including two stand-and-deliver slaps over long-on from Mohammad Aamer, but that, realistically, was as good as their run-chase got. From his very next delivery, Reekers miscued another wild wallop, and Sohail Tanvir claimed a well-judged catch at deep midwicket.
It wasn't a faultless display by any stretch of the imagination, and Pakistan's fallible catching again resurfaced when Alexei Kervezee was gifted two lives in consecutive overs. But Afridi struck with his first delivery of the match when he slid a topspinner through Bas Zuiderent's defences, and Peter Borren followed one over later when he top-edged a sweep off Saeed Ajmal. Kervezee's chancy innings came to an end in the same over as he galloped down the wicket to slap what would have been their first boundary in front of square for seven overs, but was defeated by the doosra and stumped by a mile.
At 49 for 4 in the ninth over, the Dutch resistance had been all but crushed, and Afridi stepped forward to grind them down even further. Though he fumbled a run-out opportunity to let Tom de Grooth get off the mark first-ball, Afridi struck with the first ball of his third over, a full flat topspinner that flattened the leg stump. Two balls later, Daan van Bunge yorked himself as he charged down the track and was easily stumped for a duck, and though Ryan ten Doeschate stemmed the procession with a six over midwicket off Shoaib Malik, his same-over dismissal - again to a yorker-length stumping - reduced the score to a sorry 71 for 7.
Afridi had time to claim one more wicket in his superlative four-over spell, as Edgar Schiferli flogged a lofted drive to deep mid-off, before Kamran Akmal completed his fourth stumping of the match - again off Ajmal - as Dirk Nannes was dragged out of his ground. It was left to Umar Gul to seal the contest with 14 balls to spare, when he splattered Pieter Seelaar's stumps with another full-length delivery. Pakistan's captain, Younis Khan, may have derided Twenty20 matches as "fun" after their defeat against England, but this was a very serious performance indeed.
The tone of the Pakistan performance was set during their six Powerplay overs, in which they raced to 50 for 1. Salman Butt, singled out by his captain after the England match for the woeful state of his fielding, responded with the aggression of a man whose job was on the line as he whipped his first ball, from Nannes, through midwicket for four, before launching Schiferli over the covers and into the Mound Stand for six.
Just as Butt was beginning to cut loose, however, he drilled ten Doeschate to Borren at mid-off for 18. Malik launched his innings with two fours in three balls before being badly dropped by Zuiderent at backward point on 14, and when Akmal found his range with a brace of sixes in consecutive overs, Pakistan had reached 77 for 1 with 11 overs remaining, and looked as though they were pulling clear.
But Netherlands showed from a similar position against England that they are a side who will not give up, and Borren combined with the 21-year-old offspinner, Seelaar, to put the brakes back on the innings. Having reached 41 from 29 balls, Akmal found himself frustrated in a beautifully slow and teasing second over from Seelaar, which ended with an ambitious drill over midwicket, and a heart-in-the-mouth juggling catch from Schiferli in front of the Tavern Stand.
The Dutch bowlers maintained their discipline admirably as the overs ticked away. If in doubt they went full, sometimes offering full-tosses, but there was scarcely a long-hop in evidence. Younis dented ten Doeschate's figures by clearing his front foot to swipe Pakistan's fourth six of the innings, then belted Seelaar for two more in two balls to hoist his team past 150 with 15 balls remaining. But Seelaar kept his cool, and his line and length, and before the over was out, de Grooth at long-on had intercepted Younis's next shot in anger.
Schiferli maintained the full-and-straight approach to deny Afridi the room to swing his arms, although he did finally connect with one to drill Nannes out of the ground with four balls remaining. The bowler responded by uprooting his leg stump with the very next delivery, but as Afridi would later go on to show with the ball, sometimes there is simply no stopping him. When the mood takes them, there is sometimes no stopping Pakistan either.