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The two Umars in the Pakistani side were at both ends, for the final six balls of the first 2012 World T20 semi-final. One of them removed their helmets to play Nuwan Kulasekara. A move both brave and pointless, for he missed. When he put it back on, Umar Akmal needed to get 21 runs off the last two. He managed four, and there ended his tournament. But he wasn’t the only one to blame, for the Men-in-Green losing their third consecutive World Cup semi-final across two coloured formats.
When the chase began, Malinga and Kulasekara were bowling slower deliveries, and this managed to keep Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Nazir quiet for a while. It was clear that the demons inside the batsmen were bigger than the demons on the pitch, and when Imran Nazir played onto his stumps, his nerves were to blame, more than the bounce that Ajantha Mendis manage to extract from the track. Nasir Jamshed however was unlucky.
The left-handed Virat Kohli, if we are allowed to use the blasphemous comparison, failed to make contact with the ball, which pitched outside the leg-stump before hitting the pads. Umpire Rod Tucker considered only the second. Pakistan 55/2, and that blow cracked the dam open. First Kamran Akmal with a hideous shot, and then Shoaib Malik with a shoddy forward defense. Their only consolation was Mohammed Hafeez’s presence at the crease, but he too was living on borrowed time, after Lasith Malinga butter- fingered a simple chance at long on.
But the Professor failed to learn his lesson, by getting himself stumped off Rangana Herath, thanks to a wild swing, away from the ball. Then Shahid Afridi came and left in the time, that a human being takes to breathe. Six wickets is one foot in the grave, and however hard Umar Akmal tried to delay proceedings, he was only delaying the inevitable. The target was growing on them, and the Sri Lankans were making sure that the Pakistanis tied themselves in knots, by hitting within the ropes. It worked.
At the toss, the coin told Mahela Jayawardene that his luck was on the money, and he in turn told the mike that he would bat. Pakistan entrusted the opening responsibilities to two left armers, at opposite ends of the same trade- pacer Sohail Tanvir and spinner Raza Hasan. Bowling off the wrong foot, the former got an edge from Dilshan, but Kamran Akmal’s one-handed dive wasn’t good enough. Openers Jayawardene and Dilshan understood that there was turn and bounce in the pitch, and in an effort to improvise, the Lankan skipper manage to pick up some bounty from the boundary, by utilising his weaker hand to play the pull and sweep in reverse.
But when he tried the shot that his batting partner is well known for, Jayawardene only managed to scoop the ball to Raza Hasan at short fine leg. Shahid Afridi celebrated like an umpire signalling a six, minus the stiffness and with a lot more emotion. Replacement Kumar Sangakkara oozed oodles of style in the three fours that he struck, before he got his timing wrong at about ten minutes to eight, with the ball in Shoaib Malik’s palms at long on. Sri Lanka’s skippers in the 2012 World T20, back in the dressing room, backs taking the shape of a chair.
Triple figures came up with a single off the last ball of the fifteenth over. Enter Umar Gul, bowling for the first time in the match to Jeevan Mendis. Every time the bat touched the ball, there were two runs, and this happened thrice. The pitch was making sure, that this contest would be a fair battle between bat and ball. Gul was doing better without the new ball in his right hand, but robbed himself of a wicket, after over-stepping, before trapping Mendis leg-before-wicket. He made amends by using the yorker against Dilshan, with umpire Taufel satisfied with both the lbw appeal and the delivery stride. That Dilshan was having an off-day at office, was for all to see.
Mendis took his own batting life at the crease, by coming down the track, to give Akmal and Ajmal their one and only dismissal of the match. Thisara Perera was keen to get a move on, using his ‘left foot out of the way’ stance to add two boundaries to the one that Angelo Mathews had procured with an edge. Important. For the last over was Sri Lanka’s best, 16 runs coming off it, the difference between the two teams in this game.
The ‘twitter’ target of 140 would be enough to take them to their second World T20 final, at the expense of a side that gave them agony in the last match of the 2009 edition.
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