|Ground:||Trent Bridge, Nottingham|
|Scorecard:||Pakistan v South Africa|
|Player:||Shahid Afridi, JH Kallis, JP Duminy, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal|
|Event:||ICC World Twenty20 2009|
DateLine: 18th June 2009
Shahid Afridi's credentials as a cornerstone of Pakistan cricket, which were under serious threat in the recent past, especially due to his terrible batting form, were re-attested on Thursday evening as he displayed his talent in both innings to guide Pakistan into the final of the ICC World Twenty20 World Cup, scripting a seven-run win over favourites South Africa.
Afridi first played a key innings of 51 off 34 deliveries to guide Pakistan to 149/4, a target that South Africa, given their batting form off late, would have been expected to get without much fuss.
But they hadnít accounted for the spin, to be bowled by Afridi and Saeed Ajmal, and a sensational burst of death bowling from Umar Gul, which ensured that the South Africans just did not get any space to fight back.
Afridi claimed 2/16 off his four overs of leg-spin and googlies, bowled with amazing control, while Ajmal and Gul played the supporting role brilliantly as Pakistan made their way to the second successive Twenty20 World Cup final.
When South Africa began their effort, it was obvious that Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith, opening the innings, were looking for the sedate opening, ensuring that they didnít lose any wickets.
Things seemed to be going their way, as Smith was floored by Gul off Mohammad Aamer. At 40 for no loss after six overs, they were very much on track, and the silence among the vociferous Pakistan supporters at Trent Bridge was testament to that.
But all that changed as Smith, cramped by young left-arm speedster Aamer, tried a pull and top-edged a catch to the bowler.
Afridi was immediately deployed by Younis Khan and the match changed. The Pathan first burst through Herschelle Gibbsí defences and then shattered AB de Villiersí furniture, all in the space of four balls. From 40 for no loss at the end of the sixth over, South Africa had been reduced to 50-3 off 8.3 overs.
They could never recover. Kallis and JP Duminy tried their utmost to break the shackles, occasional big shots being testament to their efforts, but they were at no stage given any freedom whatsoever.
Once Kallis failed to dispatch a doosra from Ajmal, and was caught by Shoaib Malik at the long-on fence, the match was effectively over. The Proteasí batting key left for 64 off 54 balls (seven furs and a six). Neither Duminy, nor Albie Morkel was able to do anything against the sustained accuracy of Ajmal and Gul.
By the time Aamer bowled the last over, South Africa had 23 runs to get to win, a target way beyond their grasp.
Earlier, Afridi, sent in at No 3 once opener Shazaib Hasan had gone for a duck, played a totally different role from what people had come to expect from him over the years. He stood solid, put his head down and kept deliveries away initially, with the South Africans probably expecting him to go hammer and tongs after the bowling.
He weathered Kamran Akmalís exit for an attacking 23 off 12 balls (four fours, one six) and then carved out a partnership with Younis Khan. Afridi was largely sedate, although he did blaze away in one Johann Botha over, clattering three lofted boundaries in the cover region before delicately gliding the fourth to the third-man fence.
Pakistan, despite being a happy 120/3 after 15 overs, failed to pick up speed towards the end, especially after Afridi fell to Roelof van der Merwe. Malik and Abdul Razzaq both went at less than run-a-ball, and Pakistan were left stranded at a below-par 149/4.
But as it turned out, the command showed by the South African spinners on a slow track would ultimately become Pakistanís trump card, as Afridi came to the party.
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