Umars show the way
Late heroics from Umar Akmal and Umar Gul dragged Pakistan to an impressive World Twenty20 Super Eights victory over South Africa at Colombo.
Pakistan, having been asked to bat, initially appeared favourites as Raza Hasan and Saeed Ajmal strangled the Proteas, who were grateful for JP Duminy’s 48 as they posted 133 for six.
Yet after hitting 20 from the opening two overs in reply, Pakistan then slumped to 76 for seven as wickets tumbled at regular intervals.
At that stage, it seemed Akmal held the key, yet Gul had other ideas and duly took it upon himself to lead the way, striking two fours and three sixes in a remarkable 17-ball 32.
That paved the way for Akmal to finish the job; with nine required in the last over, he pulled Morne Morkel for six off the second delivery before Ajmal edged a four to seal a two-wicket success.
Akmal finished unbeaten on 43 from 41 deliveries, while Ajmal made sure his presence was felt despite just facing one ball.
Pakistan started sloppily as Kamran Akmal dropped a relatively straightforward chance to remove Hashim Amla.
It mattered little, however, as the opener struck Yasir Arafat to Shoaib Malik at cover - a dismissal that heralded a minor top-order collapse.
Richard Levi was bowled by Ajmal attempting an ungainly reverse-sweep and Jacques Kallis drove to cover off Mohammad Hafeez, who had Farhaan Behardien stumped to leave the Proteas 66 for four.
Duminy kept his cool in a 38-delivery knock that was epitomised by a glorious flick over wide long-on off Arafat.
The seamer gained his revenge by having the left-hander caught behind later in the over, after AB de Villiers had also chipped in with an impressive 25.
Following a rip-roaring start, Pakistan were undermined by Robin Peterson having Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed stumped after Dale Steyn had seen off Imran Nazir.
Their problems worsened as they lost another four wickets in quick succession; Kamran was bowled by Johan Botha, Malik hit Kallis to Steyn at third man, Shahid Afridi struck Duminy down long-off’s throat and Arafat clipped Steyn to midwicket.
Yet that merely heralded the arrival of Gul, who turned the encounter on its head with a brutal display of hitting that left many - including the South Africans - shellshocked.
The Proteas’ plight was worsened, meanwhile, by star seamer Steyn - who claimed 3-22 - taking a nasty blow to the ankle that left him hobbling off the field.