Pakistan put themselves in front with a strong performance in the field as their four frontline spinners wove a web around South Africa. But what should have been a straightforward chase for Pakistan turned into a comedy of soft dismissals and a surprising outfoxing of the batsmen by the South African spinners.
Then, Gul and Umar Akmal took centre stage and shared a stand of 49 in 27 balls for the eighth wicket to inflict a demoralising defeat on South Africa. The pair stroked a series of audacious boundaries as they took on South Africa’s pace attack with Jacques Kallis and Albie Morkel the worst hit. To add to South Africa’s worries, Dale Steyn left the field with an injured ankle after being struck in his final over.
South Africa will reflect on a number of tactical errors, rather than simply being outplayed. Talking points will centre on be AB de Villiers batting at No. 6, instead of higher up the order and Johan Botha and JP Duminy only bowling two overs each on a pitch that clearly had something in it for spinners -Kallis and Albie Morkel could have been used less.
For Pakistan the strategy may not matter. They take the points and the advantage in the group after looking as though they would at the halfway stage, almost giving it away and then snatching it back in some style to ensure their early efforts did not go to waste.
Only JP Duminy had some measure of the Pakistan attack as the rest of the line-up were troubled and tied down by turn. Raza Hasan did the early containing job, setting the stage for the introduction of Saeed Ajmal, who bowled Richard Levi around his as the opener attempted a reverse sweep to the first ball he faced from Ajmal.
He and Duminy shared a stand of 38 and built the platform De Villiers may have been waiting for. Behardien played two shots in anger before he was stumped and De Villiers finally made his entrance at No. 6. He had seven and a half overs to make an impact but managed 25 runs while Duminy continued to play the anchor role. He suffered from dehydration during his innings and vomited on the field but was able to bowl later on. Given the conditions, some may say he should have bowled more.Mohammed Hafeez accounted for Jacques Kallis, who slapped his first ball to cover and South Africa were in serious trouble at 28 for 3. Despite the situation, AB de Villiers chose to hold himself back and Farhaan Berhardien came in ahead of him.
Pakistan were in a worse situation than South Africa early on. Imran Nazir gloved an attempted pull to de Villiers and then Robin Peterson found turn and bounce to have Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed stumped in the same over. Kamran Akmal was bowled playing a cut that was not on off Johan Botha and Pakistan were 37 for 4.
Umar Akmal played a Duminy-like innings, taking advantage of anything loose and full and holding back for the rest of the time. He was not shaken by Shoaib Malik handing a catch to third man, Shahid Afridi falling for a golden duck after smashing Duminy to the long-off fielder or Yasir Arafat fending a short ball to Duminy who took a spectacular catch at midwicket.
The two dismissals Duminy was involved in looked to spell the end for Pakistan but Gul was reading a different script. He made his intent known when he clubbed Kallis for back-to-back sixes on the on-side, picking up the length well. Umar Akmal let Gul go wild while he held up his end and Gul obliged.
Gul holed out to Petersen on the cover boundary but he had done enough damage. Umar Akmal’s eyes lit up when Morne Morkel offered him a full toss and he hit it flat over midwicket to leave Saeed Ajmal to seal the win with an outside edge to third man.