Mercurial as a floating voter to the end, Pakistan re-engaged with the World Twenty20 yesterday. The 11-run defeat of South Africa in their final Super 8 match resurrected, for a while at least, their own fading hopes of retaining the title.
For South Africa, the wretchedly catatonic performance confirmed their elimination from yet another limited overs competition which they entered with such high hopes. It also formally ensured that England would progress to the semi-finals. "You run out of excuses in the end," said South Africa's captain, Graeme Smith. "It was disappointing and it just isn't good enough."
"We got strangled a bit with the bat," Smith added. "We bowled pretty well to restrict Pakistan, but we were tense with the bat and lacked fluency and positivity. AB [De Villiers, who scored 53] was the only one who really played.
"That's been the story of our tournament. We've struggled to get all three disciplines together in one game.
"You always say you've got to learn your lessons. You have to say, with the talent in South Africa, it's not good enough to perform at this level."
At 18 for three in the fifth over, Pakistan looked dead and buried and though this increased to 50 for three at the end of the tenth it was hardly evidence of renaissance. But somehow they plundered 98 runs in the second half of their innings.
Umar Akmal, younger, possibly smarter brother of Kamran, played with wonderful zest, regularly freeing his front leg and executing a full, rapid swing of the bat. He had both South African spinners, Johan Botha and Roelof van der Merwe, for breakfast.
"I just played my positive game. The wicket was good and the ball went where I wanted it to go," Akmal said.
Various overs brought 19, 13, 16 and 14 runs. It actually slowed up in the final four when only 24 runs came but by the end Pakistan knew they had enough to mount a serious challenge.
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi said afterwards: "The boys performed really well. In the beginning it was not a good start, but then Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal and myself, those partnerships were good and 140-150 is a good total on this track.
"I always believe a captain's performance is very important."
After their vibrant start, with Dale Steyn breathing fire, South Africa became somnambulant. Their fielding was too imprecise and they looked heavy-legged. They managed to claw something back towards the end as Charl Langeveldt chipped in neatly with 4 for 19, the second-best return of the tournament.
South Africa eschewed the idea of blasting their way to victory in the powerplay overs and instead opted for pragmatic caution. It was a disastrous ploy and there were simply too few boundaries to take them to a challenging position.
Briefly, they came to life when they were already staring down the barrel, four of their top five all gone. AB De Villiers, who has flourished fitfully in the competition, raised his game by dashing twos and unfurling two powerful sixes.
It seemed he might have tilted the match South Africa's way again and had he seen them home it would have been a feather in the Twenty20's cap, a game which is never done. But De Villiers perished trying to play a Dilscoop, the over the shoulder shot named after the Sri Lankan, Tillekeratne Dilshan. If this shot is not perfectly executed it can lead to all sorts of trouble and De Villiers merely looped the ball into the air.
There was nowhere to go after that for a dreadfully lacklustre side. Although Johan Botha essayed a few powerful hits at the end, Pakistan's slow bowlers were as effective as South Africa's had not been. Ajmal especially was all over them with a mixture of flippers and straight ones, their captain Shahid Afridi also put in a quietly parsimonious quartet of overs.
The match went to the wire and South Africa could theoretically have won had they scored 17 from the final over. The truth was that it had been done and dusted long before.Reuse content