Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pakistan downs South Africa to reach Twenty20 final

Pakistan steamrolled their way into the finals of the ICC World Twenty20 by defeating favorites South Africa at Trentbridge today! I cannot help but think of a similar post I did about two years ago, in the last installment of this tournament, when we beat New Zealand to enter the final. Although that particular final proved to be something of a heartbreak for us, but the tournament cemented Pakistan's place as a major force in the twenty20 arena. I have to admit one thing though, I was initially very skeptical of this format of cricket, but two years later it seems I have been proved wrong. The format has literally taken off, thanks in part to the Indian domestic leagues of ICL and IPL. The IPL doosra especially generated a mammoth interest among cricket lovers all over the world.

Much was made of this mouth-watering tie beforehand. Cricinfo called it a clash of cultures - 'Science vs. Art', a clash of arguably the most consistently performing team against the most inconsistent lot of players ever assembled. Don't get me wrong, the men in green can be superb at times, but they've choked far too many times in the past (1999 world cup, 2007 T20 final etc.) to ever let their fans rest assured. If anything, it is Pakistan who deserve this label more than South Africa if you ask me. South Africa have just been plain unlucky as far as them not winning many tournaments is concerned. Their loss to Australia in the 1999 world cup was especially heartbreaking and I genuinely felt sad for them that day. But I digress; let me come back to the topic in question. The truth is South Africa knew that a side as mercurial as Pakistan had the potential to undo their dogged determination and organization and a spark of brilliance is all that would be required in this shortened version of the game to triumph over their all-round better side.

Pakistan came into the game full of confidence having finally found their feet in the tournament with the awesome defeat of New Zealand that left Vettori crying foul at Umar Gul's outstanding bowling, and the subsequent beating of Ireland. South Africans, meanwhile, maintained a one hundred percent winning rate in the tournament having won all their seven games leading up to the semi-final. Typical of them. The game started at a frantic pace with Kamran Akmal smashing South African bowlers all over the park in the first few overs. But Pakistan lost Shahzaib and Akmal early on and had to rely on Afridi (yes, Afridi) to build their innings. And what a fantastic job he did, playing the anchoring role for the side. For once, he played sensibly not going after every ball in an attempt to hit it out of the park. He kept his head, and a nation heaved a sigh of relief as his innings proved to be vital. It was only some excellent South African bowling at the death that restricted Pakistan to a total of 149, which was a good 15-20 runs of what it could've been at one stage.

South African innings started in familiar fashion with Abdul Razzaq getting the spanking treatment early on. Graeme Smith was the first to fall to Mohammed Aamer as he tried to pull a short delivery. On came Afridi and delivered the decisive blow for Pakistan by taking out Gibbs and de Villiers in 3 balls! No one could deny him his glory as this was his day, and his magnificent effort saw Pakistan through to the end. Jacques Kallis fought on for his side, but ultimately fell to Saeed Ajmal. Some more awesome bowling by Umar Gul ensured that the South Africans never got back in the game and even though the final margin of victory was just 7 runs, by the end of the day the Proteas had well and truly been outplayed by a side that is peaking at the righ time!

Shot of the day belonged to Kamran Akmal for that awesome drive off Abi Morkel straight down the ground. Man, that was beautifully picked up or what. Awesome shot. It was also funny watching the duel between Afridi and Kallis especially when the former blew a kiss to the latter :). There was definitely no love lost there!

On another note, it was Wasim Akram who had said at the start of the tournament that Pakistan were one of the favorites to win this crown. I must admit, I too, enjoyed a laugh or two at his expense when I heard that, but how wrong all of us have been proven to be! Wasim, you were right, no one is laughing at you now. Pakistan are odds-on to win the final now no matter who they face. And for a nation that has been down in the doldrums for the best part of half-a-decade, this couldn't be a better time. Nothing unites Pakistan like cricket, and winning this world cup would be absolutely fantastic for the country at this point. So Team Pakistan, do us proud ... let's win it for Bob Woolmer, let's win it for the 160 million cricket-loving people of Pakistan!

Highlights of the game are available here:
Pak Innings | SA Innings

No comments:

Post a Comment