The label of chokers still hangs around their necks. South Africa, serial semi-final failures, are out of the World Twenty20, their position as tournament favourites counting for nothing as the last step to reach a final again proved beyond them.
Pakistan, fired by a virtuoso show with bat and ball from Shahid Afridi, will go to Lord's on Sunday, having somehow found what was necessary from a typically dysfunctional performance to restrict Graeme Smith's team to eight runs fewer than the 150 needed for victory. "Everyone knows we are slow starters," said Younus Khan, the Pakistan captain. "We were underdogs and suddenly we are in the final."
Jacques Kallis, brave and bold, gave his side every opportunity to break the hoodoo, holding their innings together until the 18th over with 64 off 57 balls, but with only Jean-Paul Duminy able to provide a supporting role of any substance after Afridi and the off-spinner Saeed Ajmal had stifled the middle overs, it was an effort in vain.
Afridi, once universally feared but who has struggled with the bat for a year and a half, found his touch at the moment that mattered, hitting eight boundaries in his first half-century for Pakistan in any form of cricket since January last year. But that was only half of his contribution. Bowling his leg-breaks and googlies brilliantly, he then claimed the wickets of Herschelle Gibbs and A B de Villiers, limiting two of the aces in their opponents' pack to six runs between them and crucially slowing South Africa's momentum.
But Smith took defeat on the chin. "With the level we had played at, we probably deserved to be in the final but we were beaten by a great performance from Shahid Afridi," he said.
After Younus, anticipating a turning pitch, batted first, Pakistan crashed 22 off the opening two overs, despite the early loss of Shahzaib Hasan. Yet it was an innings of surges and retreats. At five overs, Pakistan were 43 for 2; the next five added only 25 more. But Afridi, gathering pace, hit four consecutive boundaries in a clever over against Botha, culminating in a gorgeous late dab to the third man fence. He fell soon after completing his 33-ball half-century. It had been an uplifting effort, yet as the last five overs added a paltry 29, you feared it would be only a footnote to a South African win. "We were maybe 15 or 20 runs short," Younis conceded.
After South Africa's confident start, Afridi bowled Gibbs, playing for a leg-break, with one that slipped straight through and saw off De Villiers with a similar ball, chopped on to the stumps. Pakistan spirits soared and at halfway, 61 for 3, South Africa still needed 89. Duminy's lusty late blows took him to 44, with a six off Mohammad Aamer in the last over, but Afridi was not to be denied his moment.
Trent Bridge scoreboard
Pakistan won toss
† Kamran Akmal c J A Morkel b Steyn 23
Hasan c van der Merwe b Parnell 0
Shahid Afridi c de Villiers b Duminy 51
Shoaib Malik c J Botha b van der Merwe 34
*Younus Khan not out 24
Abdul Razzaq not out 12
Extras (lb2 w3 pens 0) 5
Total (4 wkts, 20 overs) 149
Fall: 1-8 2-28 3-95 4-124
Did not bat: Misbah-ul-Haq, Fawad Alam, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Aamer.
Bowling: Steyn 4-0-28-1; Parnell 4-0-26-1; Kallis 2-0-14-0; J A Morkel 2-0-13-0; Van der Merwe 4-0-2- 1; J Botha 2-0-23-0; Duminy 2-0-14-1.
J H Kallis c Shoaib Malik b Ajmal 64
*G C Smith c & b Aamer 10
H H Gibbs b Shahid Afridi 5
A B de Villiers b Shahid Afridi 1
J P Duminy not out 44
J A Morkel run out 2
† M V Boucher not out 0
Extras (b4 lb11 w1 pens 0) 16
Total (5 wkts, 20 overs) 142
Fall: 1-40 2-46 3-50 4-111 5-134
Did not bat: R van der Merwe, W D Parnell, D W Steyn, J Botha.
Bowling: Abdul Razzaq 3-0-19-0; Aamer 4-0-30-1; Shahid Afridi 4-0-16-2; Ajmal 4-0-23-1; Shoaib Malik 1-0-5-0;Umar Gul 3-0-19-0; Fawad Alam 1-0-15-0.
Umpires: B F Bowden (NZ) and S J Davis (Aus).
Pakistan beat South Africa by seven runs
19 DAYS TO GO
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