x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Gul rights wrong for Pakistan

Umar Gul provided another exhibition of high-quality swing bowling as Pakistan's resurgent cricketers finally banished the painful memories of two years ago.

LONDON // Umar Gul provided another exhibition of high-quality swing bowling as Pakistan's resurgent cricketers finally banished the painful memories of two years ago in Sabina Park, Jamaica. On St Patrick's Day in 2007, Ireland caused what was then the biggest upset in the history of limited overs cricket by knocking Pakistan out of the World Cup.

However, the natural order was restored last night when Gul and company ruthlessly disposed of the amateur counterparts in a 39-run victory at the Oval. While Pakistan's players can now plan for a second successive World Twenty20 semi-final, the majority of Ireland's players will be heading back to their day jobs. Ahead of the game, Pakistan's good-natured captain Younus Khan said he wanted to "crush" Ireland, as vengeance for their upset at the 50-over World Cup game two years ago. It was one of the few utterances he has made with any great seriousness since the competition started.

They clearly meant business when they took to the crease, with Shahzaib Hasan, the newcomer who opens the batting, setting the innings off to a brisk start. When he went in the sixth over, Younus's intentions were clear as Shahid Afridi, the fiercest plunderer of innocuous attacks, strode to the wicket. As has been his wont in the Twenty20 game to date, Afridi sparkled only briefly, but in 13 balls he still accrued 24. Kamran Akmal was more circumspect, and it paid off as he made a half-century.

Boyd Rankin, the giant seam-bowler who plays county cricket for Warwickshire, went for just 11 from his four overs. His new ball partner, Trent Johnston, leaked 45 by contrast. Much of the pre-match talk centred around the storm in the tea-cup which followed Daniel Vettori's observation that Gul had managed to reverse-swing the ball on his way to five wickets against his New Zealand side. The ensuing controversy had little effect on Gul. After taking five wickets - the first time anyone has managed that feat in Twenty20 internationals - against New Zealand, he followed it up with two for 19 here.

He also picked up a direct hit run out, and even had the unusual experience of splattering Andrew White's stumps, yet conceding a run as it arrived off a free hit which followed a no ball the previous delivery. Gul is now the leading wicket-taker in the competition, on 12, with Saeed Ajmal one behind him after claiming four for 19 against the Irish. pradley@thenational.ae