Afridi powers Pakistan into final

All-rounder scores 51 and took two crucial wickets to help his team beat S Africa by seven runs

Afridi powers Pakistan into final

Electing to bat, Pakistan, a fiery start notwithstanding, could make only 149 for four. Shahid Afridi made a fifty to lead the Pakistan’s march, and he took two important wickets to play a huge hand in his team’s seven-run win over tournament favourite South Africa.

Pakistan will take on the winners of the match between Sri Lanka and West Indies in the final at Lords on June 21.

If Pakistan was a picture of confidence right from the beginning,
South Africa presented that familiar disappointing image of chokers in an important match.

But the way the Proteas started the innings told a different tale as skipper Graeme Smith, though struggling to time the ball, and Jacques Kallis added 40 runs for the opening wicket in 5.5 overs.

At that stage a victory seemed a stroll in the park for South Africa, but the dismissal of Smith, caught off his own bowling by Mohammad Aamir, disrupted the rhythm of South Africans.

They appeared a panic lot, and played with a lot of caution that exactly did not suit the situation.

Man-of-the-match Afridi’s spot-on leg-spin too added to the confusion in Protean ranks. The all-rounder castled Herschelle Gibbs with gem of delivery in his first over, and then induced an edge from in-form AB de Villiers, who dragged the ball onto stumps while attempting a cut, to push South Africa into deeper peril.

Double blow

The dismissals of de Villiers and Gibbs, two batsmen who could have amassed runs quickly, put South African under considerable tension from which they never really recovered even with Kallis, who made well composed 64, Jean Paul Duminy adding 61 runs off 53 balls for the fourth wicket.

Though Gul couldn’t take any wicket the paceman bowled with lot of aggression and at right length, making the Protean batemen’s life verymuch difficult. Apart from Kallis and Duminy none of the South African batsmen could come up with substantial contribution as they fell cheaply to pressure.

Earlier, Pakistan started the proceedings with a bang. Kamran Akmal, despite the early fall of Shahazad Hassan, went after the South African bowlers with gusto.

The diminutive opener played some power-filled strokes and a six off Dale Steyn over long-off was a reflection of the batsman’s mood.

But Akmal, who looked in fine touch, chanced his arm once too many and perished soon while attempting to loft Steyn nearby River Trent.

The dismissal saw Afridi walking on to the field to a grand reception, and the temperamental batsman did not disappoint the massive number of supporters, playing an archetypal brazen innings to power Pakistan.

Till now, Afridi was doing the damage with the ball, and the situation demanded him to play the lead role.

Solid platform

Never one to miss a chance to be in the limelight Afridi responded to the task in a superb fashion. The Pashtoon and Shoaib Malik added 67 runs for the third wicket to give Pakistan a solid platform to launch attack in the slog overs.

But the plan did not quite work as South African bowlers staged a comeback to check the Pakistan batsmen.

Afridi was dismissed while searching for quick runs, lofting Duminy to de Villiers.
The ouster of Afridi also slowed down Pakistan’s progress as they could manage only 29 runs in the last five overs. But it proved a defendable effort on the day.

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