LAHORE: It was a day of surprises - Pakistan defeating the apparently unbeatable South Africa by 67 runs and jumping into the final of the tri-nation tournament at Sharjah by force and not through proxy of a superior run-rate. It was the day of Waqar Younis, who crossed the 300 wicket mark in one-day cricket to distinguish himself as the second bowler to do so after Wasim Akram, his illustrious new-ball partner. The two Pakistani bowlers heading the wickets table is a matter of great honour and pride for the country.

It was the day for Shoaib Akhtar too whose Rawalpindi Express achieved the fastest speed of 156 kilometers in his second over. He followed it by hurling a marvelous over of searing pace in which he grabbed three wickets without conceding a run. The sensational stuff ripped the heart out of the South Africa's middle-order batting plunging the team in a nose dive. It was also the day for Gibbs who opened the South African innings and remained not out with a defiant 59. He kept his end with tremendous courage while wickets continued falling at the other. He was unlucky to run out of partners. Was the rare feat of 'carrying the bat' considered a landmark in one-day cricket also, he would have earned the space in the record books.

Above all, it was a big day for Pakistan, not only for winning a match against the Proteas after a lapse of five years but also humbling them at the desert oasis where South Africa had not lost a match during nine appearances.

After piling a highly impressive total of 272 against India, the Pakistani batting was supposed to have revived its form and achieved the optimum. Surprisingly the spark that ignited the flame withered in a day. Batting first Pakistan were all out for only 168 runs which by no means could be termed as a fighting score, especially against the strong opposition like South Africa. Yousuf Youhana was the top scorer with 65 runs . No doubt he made an invaluable contribution to Pakistan's moderate total, he survived two dropped catches and a run out chance. One may treat them as a part of the game but such chances if availed by the opponents can turn a victory into defeat. Shahid Afridi was the second highest scorer with 26 runs. A highly talented player he does not possess the nerve to restrain him from adventurism. He was bowled trying a shot that he could possibly avoid. Pakistan's total of 168 runs seemed highly insignificant for the nature of competition.

The South Africa having already reached the finals by dint of three impressive victories chose to rest five of its major players including skipper Hansie Cronje, the new comers were the middle order batsmen Mckenzie and Benkenstein and bowlers Willougby, Crookes and Strydom. The bowlers had done the admirable job of ousting Pakistan for an apparently achievable total.

It was the batting failure that brought South Africa the doom. A total of 101 runs including five wild ducks was a miserable score, absolutely incommensurate with the status that the Proteas enjoyed in the world of cricket.

Facing a moderate target of 169, South Africa commenced the inning with immense confidence. Till they lost 2 wickets for 74 runs, there were no signs of a storm that could demolish them. Shoaib Akhtar struck them like lightening clinching three wickets in one over. Among the three victims, Boucher and Klusener were the stars. The 4.5 overs that Shoaib bowled before he was retired hurt, created a frightening atmosphere, of which, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Abdur Razzaq took the advantage to wrap up the inning. To its dismay South Africa lost the last 8 wickets for only 27 runs in a dramatic collapse.

The common belief that the bowlers must have a good score to defend was devastated in this match. The Pakistani bowlers at their fearsome best, turned an apparent defeat into victory for Pakistan. They have proved to be capable of bringing the stars down on their day. The Pakistan team enters the final against South Africa on Friday propelled with renewed confidence fighting spirit and hope. The team also carries in its bag, a million dollar worth characteristic of "springing a Surprise".