Gul, Akmal, Malinga raise their games

Umar Gul and Umar Akmal cross for a run Getty Images

The Umar and Umar show, Pakistan v South Africa
Umar Akmal 43*, Umar Gul 32
Partnership 49 off 27 balls

Umar Akmal found an unlikely collaborator in Umar Gul, and both laid the plot that brought about South Africa's downfall in their Super Eight match. In the lead-up to this match, Pakistan had beaten Bangladesh and New Zealand in Pallekele with powerful batting performances, while their bowlers, including Gul, had leaked runs.

In Colombo however, Pakistan's spinners were in their element against South Africa on a pitch that provided grip and Gul was only introduced in the 18th over as South Africa were restricted to 133. But as Pakistan's bowling rose, the batting disintegrated. They were reduced to 76 for 7 by the fifteenth over of the chase. Akmal, Pakistan's best finisher, was comfortably placed on 23 off 27 balls at this stage, but no other batsman was able to give him company for long enough. In walked Gul, who at best, was expected to stay at the crease while Akmal made an attempt towards the target.

Gul, after awkwardly dealing with three quick balls from Dale Steyn, found Jacques Kallis' pace to his liking. With 57 required off 29, Gul timed a flick all the way into the stands and followed that up with a clean hit towards long-on. Sixteen runs came off the over, but more importantly, it gave confidence to Akmal, who smashed a four of the first ball of the next over before Gul sent a free-hit into the crowd. A chance of a win, which had seemed distant two overs ago, was within the grasp. South Africa brought their best bowlers back, but Gul stayed with Akmal for two more overs and was out for a 17-ball 32. Akmal didn't let that go to waste, smashing a six in the last over and taking Pakistan over the line with two balls to spare. As AB de Villiers, the South Africa captain, confessed later, it was this 27-ball 49-run partnership that pulled the rug beneath them.

Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka v England
5 for 31

Lasith Malinga, the poster boy of Twenty20 cricket, was expected to be one of the stars of Sri Lanka's World Twenty20 campaign at home. But he had a quiet time in the first four matches, picking up just three wickets, while the attention veered to the mystery spinners. It was in this form, or the lack of it, that he arrived into Sri Lanka's last Super Eight match against England.

Sri Lanka's batsmen put in a collective effort that took them to 169, which almost ensured their place in the semi-final. England needed to win in 13 overs to disturb Sri Lanka's position and avoid elimination. But it was always going to be a difficult task for England's inexperienced batsmen against Malinga and Co.

In his first over, the third of the innings, after bowling a slower ball, Malinga offered width to Luke Wright who went for a fierce cut. But the pace on the ball and the angle meant that he was unable to keep the shot down and hit it straight to point. Jonny Bairstow walked into the middle to be greeted with Malinga's signature delivery on the toes, which the batsman managed to keep out. That block could have boosted Bairstow's confidence a touch as he went for a heave off the next - a length ball - and could only go as far as mid-off. Malinga had two in the over with a ball to come and Alex Hales would probably have guessed what that was going to be. It was full, fast and hit Hales on the pads, almost knocking him off his feet and although Hales might have considered himself unlucky, the umpire had no hesitation in raising his finger.

He returned ten overs later for his second over and bowled a bouncer that was too quick for young Jos Buttler as it found the top-edge and went straight to the fielder at long leg. But Malinga reserved the best for innings' top-scorer Samit Patel, who made room to hit, but saw a fast full-toss uproot his off-stump. Malinga timed his return to form well with his first five-wicket haul in T20 internationals, just ahead of Sri Lanka's big semi-final against Pakistan.