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South Africa Brush Pakistan Aside

By on June 2, 2009

icc world t20 graeme smith

South Africa 186 for 7 (Smith 70, Gibbs 42, Ajmal 2-20) beat Pakistan 127 (Botha 2-20, Steyn 2-19) by 59 runs…

There wasn’t much of a crowd at Trent Bridge but those who were there witnessed a clinical performance from South Africa, with all three facets of their game seemingly in order for the bigger picture ahead. Batting first on a pitch that had eased out in the hot afternoon sun, they cruised along through an 80-run opening partnership before two clutch hitters contributed cameos picked up off Pakistan’s listless pace attack. By the time Younis Khan realised that taking pace off the ball was the way to go, South Africa’s openers had raced out of the blocks. And therein lay the crux of South Africa’s victory.

Graeme Smith won the toss and chose to bat first on the same strip of turf on which Australia had put up an imposing 219 in Monday’s opening fixture. Poor bowling let South Africa’s openers off the leash and allowed them to climb into the box seat, and they took full advantage. Jacques Kallis tucked into some juicy bowling on the pads, with fine leg up for the early part of the innings. Smith played a couple obligatory inside-edged drives but didn’t disappoint when offered room outside off stump.

South Africa posted their fifty in the fifth over with neither openers really dominating. It was a mixture of sloppy fielding and bowling, with extras and runs off free hits constituting 14 of the first fifty, and smart placement. Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal, slower of pace and harder to hit, stemmed the flow and forced Smith to reach out and sweep against the turn. Smith got bogged down yet raised his half-century from 33 deliveries, and on cue Kallis tried to put his foot on the accelerator only to fall to Ajmal for 26.

That brought Herschelle Gibbs to the crease and with it some momentum. Gibbs was using his feet from the get-go, timing the ball fluently both sides of the track. Consecutive deliveries from Shoaib Malik were lofted either side, the second an effortless inside-out drive. Afridi returned to have Smith swing him for a flat six, but then had him stumped for 70 when he missed a wrong ‘un.

AB de Villiers was run out before he could get himself in, and Afridi then cut Gibbs off after being spanked for four and six. Unfortunately for Pakistan, Umar Gul couldn’t figure out what length to hit and Albie Morkel duly thumped him for three successive sixes in the 18th over, each of varied brutality.

Needing 187 for victory, Pakistan began their reply shakily. Salman Butt was bowled by Dale Steyn third ball, inside-edging a leaden-footed drive and Kamran Akmal lobbed a short ball from Kallis to midwicket in the sixth over. Ahmed Shahzad kept on swinging, driving Albie for consecutive boundaries, and came out to drill Roelof van der Merwe over extra cover. But van der Merwe kept his nerve and his line, and when Shahzad sized up a second boundary in the ninth over he was trapped lbw to a wild heave.

Two runs later Misbah-ul-Haq was run out by miles without facing a ball, sold down the river by his captain. Few batsmen have escaped when trying to pick singles straight to de Villiers, and the fielder found his mark with ease. Younis didn’t get a chance to atone for his lapse, chipping a return catch to van der Merwe. Pakistan were teetering on 65 for 5.

Afridi came and went, caught in front of the deep midwicket boundary, though he would have been the beneficiary of the third umpire had one been employed. After Johan Botha’s success Smith tossed the ball to JP Duminy and he delivered immediately by bowling Sohail Tanvir. Malik had emerged earlier but was soon heading off in the other direction, superbly held by Botha – one-handed – off his own bowling. It was one-way traffic and Pakistan fell miles short. Even in the last over, when victory was a foregone conclusion, Smith ran backwards from cover and plucked a catch with one hand.

Where Pakistan sprayed the ball around, allowed extra runs in their fielding effort and applied themselves poorly with the bat, South Africa were superior in all departments. It ultimately proved to be the difference between the sides.

Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

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