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It was a familiar sorry story for South Africa as they wilted under Umar Gul's blast to hand Pakistan a two-wicket win in a Super Eights Group 2 match of the ICC World Twenty20 here, on Friday.
Chasing a modest 133-6, Pakistan were floundering on 76-7 in the 15th over, before Gul walked in and played a blinder, striking three sixes and two fours in his 17-ball 32 to gain Pakistan their first points in the stage of eights, with two balls to spare.
An indifferent top-order performance had left Pakistan needing 58 from the last five overs, just three wickets in hand, before Gul's stunning display of aggression turned things around. Umar Akmal (43*) watched admiringly from the other end as 16 came from Kallis's 16th over (including two humungous Gul sixes) and 20 from Albie Morkel's 17th over.
The equation came down to 15 needed from the last two overs. Steyn conceded six in the 19th and picked up the menacing Gul, who struck him sweetly to Peterson at sweeper cover, leaving the task at 9 runs needed from Morne Morkel's last over of the innings.
Morkel began with a dot ball, but the second was pulled ferociously by Umar Akmal for six. Three off four, and then two off three. Surely Pakistan couldn't have done a South Africa from here? New man Saeed Ajmal's outside edge, which went racing for four, didn't allow them a chance to mess up.
Spare a thought for the Proteas bowlers. Steyn conceded 22 in four, Peterson 15 in as many (also picking up two wickets), Duminy five runs in two overs, and Botha ten in two. But after pegging Pakistan back for over three-quarters of the chase, they had no answer to Gul's blast.
South Africa slump to spin
The Proteas had earlier hinged their fortunes around JP Duminy's 48 in the face of some tight spin bowling from Pakistan's four tweakers. Electing to bat on what was being branded a 'flat and dusty' pitch, perfect for setting a target - or so the Proteas would have believed - the batting team plummeted to 28-3 in 6.1 overs, a situation rendered nigh inescapable by the spin of Hasan Raza, Mohammad Hafeez, Ajmal and Shahid Afridi.
Left-arm spinner Raza, in the side for Sohail Tanvir, opened the bowling and had Richard Levi dropped by Kamran Akmal. Hashim Amla was first out, deceived by a slower Yasir Arafat slower delivery that he mistimed to cover. Jacques Kallis played out a maiden to Raza but looked good to see his team through a tough phase when he lofted a soaring straight six off Raza.
The next two overs drove South Africa into teh ground. Saeed Ajmal bowled a a wicket maiden in the sixth - bowling Levi through his legs as he went for an ungainly reverse sweep. Hafeez brought himself on in the seventh over and nailed Kallis, as South Africa fell to 28-3. Behardien struck boundaries off Afridi and Ajmal before he gave Hafeez the charge and was stumped.
Duminy played the lone hand and added 44 in under 5 overs with de Villiers. The southpaw stepped out to Hafeez to score the first six of the match and pusnihsed Ajmal when the offie had a rare error in length. de Villers kept up the momentum using his feet to the spinners, before razing Umar Gul over cow corner in the 18th over. On the next ball, the imperious South African struck a full-toss straight to Imran Nazir at sweeper cover.
A six and a wicket in Gul's over, and another six and a wicket in Arafat's 19th - Duminy searing one over long-on, before swinging and edging to Akmal behind the stumps to be out for 48. South Africa ended on 133-6 and very few at that point would have believed that it would be this close, or rather that South Africa would come so close only to freeze - as is their wont - at the doorstep of victory.
Pakistan made a terrific start to what they would have presumed to be a straightforward chase. Mohammad Hafeez took a brace of fours to get things moving off Steyn's first over, and Imran Nazir followed up with two of his own as Morne Morkel came into the attack. Pakistan were cruising on 24 without loss in the third over when Nazir, who appeared hellbent on frittering away the advantage with low-percentage shots, gloved Steyn to AB de Villiers.
Robin Peterson came up next and the left-arm spinner took out two in his first over - both victims stumped after a rush of blood to the head. Hafeez, having greeted Peterson with a six first ball, walked down the wicket and was stumped by one that bounced and turned away. Much was expected of the dangerous leftie Nasir Jamshed, but he imitated his skip to the T, marching out, going for a wild hoick, missing the ball, and being stumped by de Villiers.
Peterson's sensational first over left Pakistan teeteriung on 31-3 in four oves, and Johan Botha's wicket maiden sent them another jolt in the direction of imminent disaster. Botha pushed in a quicker one to bowl Kamran Akmal as the batsman went for the cut. Peterson was turning it square at the other end, and at 55-4 in 10 overs the asking rate had begun it's steady ascent.
Shoaib Malik was unable to get going, facing 26 balls for his 12, before guiding Steyn into Kallis' hands at third man. Shahid Afridi scored a golden duck, trying to smash Duminy out of the park only to be caught at the boundary. Pakistan lost their seventh wicket when Yasir Arafat was taken off a short ball by Duminy at mid-wicket, leaving the team 76-7 after 15 overs, 58 needed from the last five. A situation to which Gul's assault was perfectly tailored.