| Umar Akmal in a punishing mood, on Friday |
Colombo: Some things don’t change in South African cricket. Their inability to pull off close matches and surrender advantages have crippled their progress since the days of Hansie Cronje and Bob Woolmer.
Even the arrival of Gary Kirtsen hasn’t brought about a change. At the Premadasa on Friday, they had everything going in their favour. Pakistan had slumped to 76 for seven in their pursuit of 134. Robin Peterson and Johan Botha were on a roll and the poor application of the Pakistan batsmen only compounded their problems.
Then Umar Akmal and Umar Gul got together to pull off a coup that gave them a two-wicket victory.
The eighth wicket pair added 49 runs that took the South Africans by surprise. While Man of the Match Gul made 32 off 17 balls with two boundaries and three sixes, Umar remained unbeaten on 43 off 41 balls that four boundaries and a six in the last over.
AB de Villiers will also have to take much of the blame for the loss.
There was no logic behind not utilising Johan Botha and JP Duminy’s
full quota when the conditions were suited for the spinners. While Botha had given away only 10 runs in his two overs, Duminy had conceded only five in as many overs. Instead De Villiers relied on Steyn and the Morkel brothers as Pakistan plundered runs in the closing stages to coast to victory.
With nine needed of the final over, Umar took seven of the first three balls and rotated the strike to Saeed Ajmal. The off-spinner’s outside edge found the boundary to bring off the winning runs.
In a way, Pakistan’s morale boosting victory was a sort of warning ahead of their key clash against India on Sunday.
Under pressure, the South African bowling and fielding buckled. While Jacques Kallis gave away 16 runs in the 16th over, Albie Morkel went for 20 in the next over. South Africa had surrendered the advantage at that point and there was no looking back for Pakistan.
Pakistan’s middle-order crumbled until Umar and Gul turned their fortunes around. To add to South Africa’s woes, Dale Steyn left the field with an injured ankle.