Gul counters controversy with aplomb

Pakistan 159-5 Ireland 120-9

Pakistan deserve a break. Many neutral observers, not to mention their own fervent supporters, would welcome them as champions of the second World Twenty20.

But wherever they go, whatever they do, whoever they play, controversy stalks them. Yesterday alone, as they qualified for the semi-finals with a rampant victory against Ireland, they found themselves at the centre of two more storms concerning ball tampering and their status as one of the hosts of the next World Cup.

The team, accustomed to such contentious matters, merely treated it as a normal day at the office and defeated Ireland by 39 runs. Their total of 159 for five did not quite put Ireland out of it but to go along at eight an over against the quality of the swing and spin on display was asking much.

The swing as achieved by Umar Gul, of course, had been the subject of some dispute. His wonderful bowling at the Oval on Saturday brought him figures of five for six, the best in international Twenty20, and ensured the heavy defeat of New Zealand.

As it transpired, New Zealand were not happy and complained that Gul might have tampered with the ball. Their complaint was rejected by match officials (who presumably ought to know) but New Zealand sneakily let their suspicions be known.

Understandably, the Pakistanis were offended. They have noticed that when other countries unearth an exponent of reverse swing the tendency is to say: "Jolly well bowled, sir." When they come up with someone – and Gul is an especially dab hand – the inclination all too readily is to say: "What are they up to?"

Gul was thus unfairly the object of close scrutiny yesterday because he had embarrassed the New Zealand batsmen with fast, accurate bowling. He came on in the 12th over and responded to being maligned by examining the ball in exaggerated fashion between deliveries. He was joined in this mischievous operation by his captain, Younus Khan.

In his first over, Gul went for seven but in his second he was unplayable as the ball moved late. He is some bowler to have entering the proceedings in the 12th over of an innings and it is some plan that Pakistan have evolved. The International Cricket Council should tell New Zealand to lump it and if they do not they should consider sanctions against them.

Younus, Pakistan's captain who was understandably affronted, said: "Everyone has his own opinion but we're not cheating. It was embarrassing to have to keep checking the ball. How can you do anything with all the cameras there are around? Why does it always happen and in England?"

Ireland were already up against it by the time Gul came on. To have a realistic chance they needed to keep the Pakistanis under 140 and could not quite manage it despite some controlled bowling. Most of Pakistan's batsmen contributed, with the opener Kamran Akmal making 57 from 51 balls. There were 13 fours and four sixes in the innings altogether and the feeling was that they had done just enough.

The 17-year-old left-arm pace bowler Mohammad Amir, who again opened the bowling, is a serious prospect and he removed Niall O'Brien with excellent repeated use of the short extremely fast ball. It was all too much for poor O'Brien who eventually top-edged a hook back to the bowler.

The spinners, Shahid Afridi and the newcomer Saeed Ajmal, continue to look as though they can play an instrumental part in this tournament. Ajmal did not make his debut until he was 30, positively ancient by traditional standards of selection in Pakistan.

To accompany their qualification Pakistan were also given some reason to hope yesterday they would continue as a host for the 2011 World Cup. The ICC is considering relocating Pakistan's matches to Abu Dhabi. ICC delegates and the four host nations – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – held a meeting at Lord's yesterday to discuss the repercussions of the terrorist attack in Lahore in March.

The ICC has told Pakistan they cannot host matches and the Pakistan Cricket Board threatened legal action which they have now suspended. It is hoped a compromise can be reached.

The Oval scoreboard

THE BRIT OVAL: Pakistan (2pts) beat Ireland by 39 runs

Pakistan won toss

PAKISTAN

......... Runs......... 6s......... 4s......... Bls......... Min

†Kamran Akmal b Johnston......... 57......... 1......... 5......... 51......... 66

Shahzaib Hasan c McCallan b Cusack......... 23......... 1......... 3......... 19......... 25

Shahid Afridi c Mooney b McCallan......... 24......... 0......... 3......... 13......... 13

*Younus Khan b West......... 10......... 0......... 1......... 8......... 9

Misbah-ul-Haq c N O'Brien b McCallan......... 20......... 1......... 1......... 14......... 18

Abdul Razzaq not out......... 15......... 1......... 0......... 9......... 13

Shoaib Malik not out......... 4......... 0......... 0......... 7......... 8

Extras (lb3 w2 nb1)......... 6

Total (for 5, 20 overs)......... 159

Fall: 1-38, 2-78, 3-102, 4-133, 5-141.

Did Not Bat: Fawad Alam, Umar Gul, Mohammad Aamer, Saeed Ajmal.

Bowling: Rankin 4-0-11-0, Johnston 4-0-45-1, Cusack 4-0-41-1, West 4-0-33-1, McCallan 4-0-26-2.

IRELAND

......... Runs......... 6s......... 4s......... Bls......... Min

*W T S Porterfield c Khan b Ajmal......... 40......... 0......... 2......... 36......... 51

†N J O'Brien c & b Aamer......... 7......... 0......... 1......... 10......... 7

P R Stirling b Afridi......... 17......... 0......... 2......... 16......... 17

K J O'Brien st Akmal b Ajmal......... 26......... 0......... 1......... 30......... 42

J F Mooney c Razzaq b Ajmal......... 2......... 0......... 0......... 8......... 7

D T Johnston b Gul......... 0......... 0......... 0......... 1......... 3

A R White b Gul......... 5......... 0......... 0......... 7......... 8

A R Cusack st Akmal b Ajmal......... 2......... 0......... 0......... 2......... 1

W K McCallan not out......... 2......... 0......... 0......... 6......... 11

R M West run out......... 1......... 0......... 0......... 1......... 0

W B Rankin not out......... 5......... 0......... 0......... 5......... 6

Extras (b1 lb7 w3 nb2)......... 13

Total (for 9, 20 overs)......... 120

Fall: 1-13, 2-42, 3-87, 4-93, 5-99, 6-108, 7-110, 8-110, 9-111.

Bowling: Mohammad Aamer 4-0-19-1, Abdul Razzaq 3-0-18-0, Shahid Afridi 4-0-26-1, Saeed Ajmal 4-0-19-4, Shoaib Malik 1-0-11-0, Umar Gul 4-0-19-2.

Umpires: R E Koertzen and R J Tucker.

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