The tables have certainly turned around for teams in the T20 World Cup. The Pakistani team, which was all set to fly back home before the super eight stage have finally brought their A-game to the tournament. After a plethora of permuations and combinations, Pakistan acceded to the second postion in their group while England leads the table with no losses in the super eights. The mis-firing Pakistani team eventually managed to sneak into the semi-finals after all, despite winning only once against the chokers from South Africa by 11 runs. As they say, all that matters in the end is the final score sheet.
Pakistan locked horns with South Africa in the 21st match at the Beausejour Stadium, Gros Islet, St Lucia. After winning the toss, the Pakistani captain elected to bat. Pakistani openers started their innings with much fanfare, however they soon succumbed to their self-destruction very early into the innings. The top order was blown away with some gritty South African bowling, leaving Pakistan to totter at 16/3. Heroics of the top-order were required desperately for Pakistan to have some chance of making the South African batsmen sweat for a win. In came the Akmal brothers who brought some normalcy along with them. Pakistan somewhat recovered after the brothers made a 53 run partnership, taking all the South African bowlers to the drycleaners. The Akmal duo timed the ball with perfection, showed some aggression and brought some sense into Pakistan's scorecard.
Ultimately, Kamran Akmal fell after an aggressive 37 fruns from 32 balls. In came the skipper, who had to play the captains innings in order to Pakistan away from the storm. Shahid Khan Afridi played like the 11th hour Samaritan making a quick fire 30 of 18 balls. After scoring a fine fifty, Umar Akmal got out to a wonderful ball only to leave the Pakistani team in a stable position. The stage was set for Pakistan's late order to touch a score of 180 or more. However, Afridi got out soon after Umar's dismissal. The innings ended at a fighting total of 148/7.
From the South African side, C K Langeveldt bowled well with figures of 9 for 4 in his 4 overs. He was supported by Dale W Steyn and Jaques H Kallis who took a wicket each.
The Proteas too weren’t able sustain a partnership from the start of their innings. Pakistani bowlers utilized the conditions to the fullest by chipping in with the wickets. Soon, South Africa was facing the wrong end of the gun, as they had scored a paltry total of 68 for the loss of 4 wickets in the first 10 overs. AB DeVilliers was the only South African batsman who resisted and made a solid score of 53 from 41 balls.
Pakistan's bowling department performed exceptionally well, not allowing any free runs to the Proteas. Abdul Razzaq's probing line and length along with the spin duo of Abdur Rehman and Saeed Ajmal proved to be too tough for the South African batsmen. Saeed Ajmal was the pick of the Pakistani bowlers after he got 4 scalps for 27 runs.
Having progressed to the semi final stage, the Pakistani team should review their strategy for the upcoming matches. The middle order for Pakistan has consistently failed in the Caribbean and if they want to win, the openening batsmen will have show more responsibility. If the team gains any sort of momentum, just like they did in England last year, Pakistan is in with a chance. Will there be a repeat of the cornered tigers of 1992? For that to happen, the team will have to gel together and fight it out. Given the importance of a semi-final against Australia, the team has to bring their best performance to the ground in order to have a favourable result.
With the current situation in mind, it can be assessed that the spinners are doing better as the tournament progresses. The Pakistani batsmen on the other end of the spectrum love to play the spinners. Chances are that the ground situation will favour the Pakistani team and their strengths. The wickets too are getting old as the tournament progresses. This is likely to give Pakistani team an advantage over the Aussies.
Having already given a dismal performanc in the super eights stage, the Pakistani team is lucky to have a second chance to defend their tittle. The Pakistani Cricket Board had already setup a committee to examine their failures in the West Indies. Shahid Afridi's team should now play like the defending champions and restore their glory.
Can Pakistan defeat Australia in T20 world cup semi final