Afridi stars as Pakistan thrash South Africa to enter final (Lead)

June 19th, 2009 - 3:35 am ICT by IANS  

Nottingham, June 19 (IANS) Shahid Afridi’s inspired all-round display saw Pakistan knock out favourites South Africa by seven runs and book a place in the final of the World Twenty20 cricket at Trent Bridge here Thursday.
Afridi slammed 51 off 34 balls to take Pakistan to 149 for four and then made the Proteas bleed with his bowling, taking the wickets of Herschelle Gibbs and Ab de Villiers, at a miserly 16 runs from four overs.

Jacques Kallis (64) and Jean Paul Duminy (44 not out) tried to revive the South African innings, but the Pakistani bowlers stuck to the task, restricting them to 142 for five.

Fast bowler Umar Gul, who was brought on as late as in the 13th over predictably got the ball to reverse and came up with his customary block-hole deliveries. Seventeen-year-old Mohammad Aamer, too, did not buckle under pressure while bowling the last over when 23 runs were needed.

Last year’s runner-up Pakistan entered the tournament with not much international matches to back them in last one year. They were far from convincing in the initial stage of the tournament, but as in the past, the talented Pakistanis showed big-match temperament to topple the South African cart.

Graeme Smith’s team did everything right in the tournament to deserve a place in the final with an all-win record and was the team to beat, and their only loss in the tournament saw them out of it. Though captain Smith denied it was a case of choking again, there were signs of panic in the closing overs.

The Proteas had lost matches they were favoured to win in the past World Cups more than once.

Deciding to bat, Pakistan made a flying start as Kamran Akmal (23) showed his aggressive streak, punishing Dale Steyn with a flurry of strokes in the first over.

Shahzaib Hasan got out in the next over of Wayne Parnell with Van der Merwe holding on to a brilliant diving catch at mid-on.

There was no stopping the diminutive Akmal, who hit four fours and a straight six off Steyn. The fast bowler, after being smashed overhead, dismissed Akmal, who mistimed a pull looking for another big shot.

Afridi and Shoab Malik (34) carried on in the same vein to add 67 runs in 58 balls. However, South Africa came back strongly in the last five overs with some tight bowling backed by attacking fielding.

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