By Syed Khalid Mahmood
History repeated itself at Trent Bridge on June 18 when South Africa crashed in the semifinals of the ICC World Twenty20 and Pakistan lived to the reputation of bringing about the downfall of the team of the moment.
South Africa, with their terrific all-round performance, had proved themselves the team of the tournament. They had remained undefeated and there was very little chance of them biting the dust as far as this event was concerned.
Pakistan, on the other hand, were banking more on the divine help and the luck factor because on paper South Africa stood head and shoulders above them in every department of the game.
Pakistan had done it to many fancied outfits in the past and now it was the turn of South Africa to face the music. It doesn’t really matter how strong and well prepared you are when Pakistan are on song.
People well versed with the Pakistan cricket or for that matter any other sport, know are aware of the fact that this team can never be written off. Irrespective of their weaknesses or the lack of depth they can still conquer the world.
Shahid Afridi, who appeared to have lost his ability to clear the field at the start of the tournament, has suddenly become the batting hero once more. He was being talked about as someone who hits the ball after closing his eyes but he went on to play a match-winning knock against South Africa of all teams.
South Africa also had a jinx to overcome. They have become infamous for running out of steam in the crucial matches. They could have been better off confronting any side other than Pakistan.
It was amazing how the South Africans lost the script. They had performed so consistently in the earlier games but they just couldn’t put their acts together in the do-or-die encounter. They conceded far too many runs to Pakistan considering the variety and punch in their bowling.
The only phase of the match when the South Africans appeared to be in the process of pulling it back was in the closing overs of the Pakistan innings. Not a single boundary in the last five overs reflected great discipline in bowling backed by very agile fielding.
But as it turned out the damage had been done earlier and the Pakistan batsmen knew that they already had enough. Younis Khan and Abdul Razzaq didn’t take undue risks even in the final over because the idea seemed to be to get whatever runs that were available without thinking of big shots.
Graeme Smith, while returning to the dugout, looked a relieved man thinking as if his team would get to the target of 150 without much hassles. But he himself was found wanting in coming to terms with the Pakistan bowlers and so were the likes of Herschelle Gibbs and A B de Villiers.
Jacques Kallis and J P Duminy fought gallantly but the battle was won by the Pakistan spinners and the South Africans were thrown out of the tournament one more time just when looking set to lay hands at the trophy.
June 19, 2009