WT20 semis: SA batting up against Pak bowling

A hugely confident South Africa will look to continue to unleash their all-round prowess against an unpredictable but resurgent Pakistan in the first semis

updated: June 18, 2009 08:07 IST
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A hugely confident South Africa will look to continue to unleash their all-round prowess against an unpredictable but resurgent Pakistan in the first semifinal of the Twenty20 World Cup on Thursday.

South Africa have been on the roll with their five-match unbeaten streak in the tournament, and they are the favourites to win the title after their emphatic wins against the West Indies, England and holders India in the Super Eight stage.

But the Graeme Smith's men, known for faltering in crucial matches, will also try their best not to choke again in their bid to reach any World Cup final.

The Pakistanis, mercurial as the unpredictable nature of a Twenty20 game, would look to rely on their bowling strength to fancy their chances against the Proteas at Trent Bridge here on Thursday.

South Africa have been the most balanced side in the tournament. Their batting have come up short twice - against New Zealand and India - but on both occasions their bowlers rescued with some clinical performances.

Smith and company clearly have the upper hand in batting with the Pakistanis having failed to click as a unit in that department so far in the tournament.

South Africa boast of AB de Villiers (185) and Jacques Kallis (174) as the second and third highest-run getters in the tournament while the Pakistani top-order has been just ordinary with captain Younis Khan (148) not getting support from seniors Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul Haq.

But it will be an intriguing battle for supremacy in the bowling department with both the sides having match-winners in their ranks.

Pakistan will look up to Umar Gul to repeat his record performance of five for six against New Zealand and he will fancy his chances against the Twenty20 International leading scorers Graeme Smith and de Villiers not to speak of JP Duminy and Herschelle Gibbs.

Gul, the leading wicket-taker of the inaugural tournament in South Africa is also the leading bowler with 12 wickets this time also, and he has fellow right-arm spinner Saeed Ajmal (11) in his company in the second spot.

Gul and Ajmal have been ably supported so far by 19-year-old Mohammad Aamer who have been bowling fast and accurate and it would be a test of character for the talented youngsters against the best batsmen of the world in this version of cricket.

Pakistan's fate though will well depend on how their batsmen cope with the South African trio of Roelof van der Merwe (9), Wayne Parnell (8) and Dale Steyn (8), who have been doing an excellent job collectively.

With seven successive Twenty20 International victories under the belt - a world record - Smith was justified in looking forward to the semifinal with confidence.

"We have had a few different challenges in the tournament. We had a low scoring match against New Zealand. We came through that. We came through against India also defending a low total," Smith said after beating India by 12 runs in a low-scoring match.

"We are professional and very clinical but I think we have proved that we have enough flair and enough options available to us to be the all-round package. We have played at all the different grounds and we have faced many different challenges batting first on good wickets, defending low totals. I think we are a well rounded team going into a semi-final."

Pakistan, on the other hand, also did not lack in the reasons to motivate themselves. A World Cup triumph will certainly boost Pakistan with most countries refusing to play in the troubled-torn country because of security concerns.

They also have another reason to win the title - to dedicate it to their former coach Bob Woolmer who died under mysterious circumstances during the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

"He (Woolmer) was an inspiring person for us. He was like a father figure for me and for the whole team. We all still miss him and if we win the World Cup I will dedicate that final game to him," captain Younis said.