x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

"Boom Boom" blasts Pakistan into final

Shahid Afridi will be given a second chance to crown his personal Twenty20 supremacy with a world title after guiding Pakistan to a shock semi-final win over South Africa.

NOTTINGHAM // Shahid Afridi will be given a second chance to crown his personal Twenty20 supremacy with a world title after guiding Pakistan to a shock semi-final win over the overwhelming tournament favourites South Africa. The big-hitting all-rounder cracked a high-octane half-century, then followed up with two cheap wickets to pave the way for a seven-run win at Trent Bridge. Afridi was the player of the tournament at the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 two years ago, but was denied the perfect ending after Pakistan were beaten by their neighbours India in the final. He will get the chance to right that wrong this weekend. Pakistan are the first side through to Sunday's final at Lord's, where they will play the winners of Sri Lanka versus the West Indies, who play today. Afridi looked like a man on a mission even before the start. "This is the only thing we can give our nation," he said on interview just before taking the field. "We all know how important it is to win this." After winning the toss and opting to bat, Pakistan made staccato progress to 149 for four from their 20 overs. Afridi injected life into the innings when he plundered four successive boundaries from the otherwise miserly off-spinner, Johan Botha's second over. All four were against the spin onto the off-side of the wicket, including three booming drives, the like of which only Afridi can hit. Yet still he was not happy. He immediately changed his bat, and it seemed like sixes were the only thing that could satisfy him. He fell soon after looking for that maximum from the slow off-spin of JP Duminy, after reaching 51 from 34 balls. Pakistan's progress with the bat was checked from then on. Wayne Parnell, who was little known before the tournament but is now a genuine star, gave another brilliant exhibition of death bowling. His final figures of one for 26 in four overs barely do justice to his excellence. Between him, Dale Steyn and Roelof van der Merwe, the left-arm spin bowler, the Proteas conceded a mere 29 from the last five overs. The boundary ropes were not crossed once in that time as Younus Khan and Co could manage little more than to pat the yorkers around the field for singles. When the South Africans started their reply, Graeme Smith was afforded a life when he top edged an attempted slog off Abdul Razzaq when he was on just eight. Umar Gul misjudged the skier and, as he toppled backwards, he suffered a blow to the head. Smith made little of his reprieve, departing soon after to a carbon copy, skewing a slog straight up. The bowler, Mohammed Amir, made no mistake. The same applied when Afridi accounted for AB de Villiers. The young South African batsman will be the "best batsman on the planet" within two years, according to his coach Mickey Arthur, but he looked all at sea against Pakistan's brilliant spinners. Afridi induced an outside edge from him, which Kamran Akmal shelled at the wicket. However, the very next ball he made the cardinal error of trying to cut Afridi, and chopped onto his stumps as the ball drifted in. Gul may not have been as destructive in the wickets column as on previous outings, but he still played a crucial role in closing out the victory. He sent down a series of swinging yorkers at 90mph, which the South African batsmen could not get away. They were left with 23 to get from the final over and Younus, the Pakistan captain, handed the ball to the 17 year old Amir. Duminy swung the second ball into the crowd for a big six, but when Albie Morkel was run out by a direct hit off the next delivery, the game was up for South Africa.

pradley@thenational.ae