Pakistan win puts England into semis
Champions Pakistan scraped an 11-run win over South Africa to stay in with a chance of reaching the ICC World Twenty20 semi-finals - and ensure England progressed before their game against New Zealand.
Umar Akmal’s 31-ball half-century helped Pakistan recover from a very sticky start after choosing to bat first at the Beausejour Stadium in St Lucia, as Charl Langeveldt took career-best Twenty20 figures of 4-19.
They could still post only a vulnerable 148 for seven. But on a pitch of only easy pace, they had enough - despite AB de Villiers’ 38-ball fifty.
Should England beat New Zealand later today at the same venue, the likelihood is that Pakistan will sneak through to a semi-final on Friday thanks to a superior net run rate.
South Africa’s chase lacked urgency from the outset, and the upshot is elimination.
Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith did not get enough bat on ball as they tried to beat the in-field in the powerplay, and both fell to catches in the ring.
Then Jacques Kallis got a little too much on an attempted chip for a single down to long-on off the back foot from Saeed Ajmal’s off-spin.
Umar responded with an outstanding running and tumbling catch, for which he deserved as much credit as for his earlier big-hitting.
From that point, as against England in Barbados two days ago, South Africa had simply left themselves too much to do - and even with the best efforts of de Villiers, who made 53, they could not reload the equation.
They failed most obviously because of an inability to clear or even reach the ropes - until de Villiers suddenly hit successive sixes, the first of the innings in the 15th over, off Abdur Rehman.
De Villiers went in the next, caught behind trying an inventive scoop-sweep off Ajmal who took 4-26, and the game was gone.
Pakistan had earlier stayed in with a chance by salvaging a worthwhile total, thanks largely to Umar’s 51.
He reached his second half-century at this level with his fourth six - down the ground off Langeveldt - to go with two fours, but fell immediately afterwards as two big wickets went in the same over.
He hit Langeveldt straight to long-on to end a stand of 61 in six overs with Shahid Afridi; then the Pakistan captain was bowled trying to guide a full-length ball away on the off-side.
Pakistan needed some innings of substance, quickly, after stumbling to 16 for three in five overs.
They got the start of a recovery from Kamran Akmal and his younger brother in a partnership of 53, until the opener scythed a catch to point off Roelof van der Merwe.
Salman Butt and Khalid Latif had already mistimed catches to mid-on, and Mohammed Hafeez was lbw toppling over and aiming Langeveldt to leg.
Langeveldt was also to pick up the late wicket of Misbah-ul-Haq as Pakistan could add only 38 runs in the last five overs.
In the end, though, South Africa’s reply stayed too far off the pace - and Pakistan held their nerve.