Nottingham:An intriguing battle is on the cards when favourites South Africa clash with buoyant Pakistan in the semi-final of the World Twenty20 on Thursday.
The South Africans have showed their all-round prowess during an unbeaten run in the tournament, including emphatic wins in all three Super Eight games against the West Indies, England and defending champions India.
The latest success came at Trent Bridge on Tuesday when the Proteas fought back after being restricted to a modest 130-5 on a slow wicket to keep off-colour India down to 118-8.
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Pakistan bounced back after losing their first Super Eights game to Sri Lanka to defeat New Zealand by six wickets before ensuring their place in the semi-final by packing off minnows Ireland by 38 runs.
In the preliminary round, the enigmatic Pakistanis had shown a similar never-say-die attitude by thrashing England-conquerers Netherlands by 82 runs after losing their opening match against the hosts.
"We are slow starters but we never give up," said Pakistan captain Younus Khan. "If we lose a game we regroup fast and go out and prove ourselves."
Pakistan have been lifted by a sensational display by seamer Umar Gul, who claimed five wickets for six runs against New Zealand at the Oval last Saturday, the first five-wicket haul in Twenty20 internationals.
Gul, who was the highest wicket-taker in the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa when Pakistan ended as runners-up to India, again tops the list with 12 scalps in this tournament.
"Gul is a class act," said Pakistani coach Intikhab Alam. "He has shown that the best way to restrict a side in T20 is by taking wickets. He is definitely a trumpcard."
Suggestions from the New Zealand camp that Gul extracted reverse swing during his five-wicket haul against them was dismissed by the on-field umpires.
But when Pakistan returned to the field against Ireland on Monday, umpires Rudi Koertzen and Rod Tucker regularly checked the ball.
Younus, however, wanted his team to overcome the embarrassment and focus on the semi-final.
"It will be a tough game because South Africa have proved they are a very good side, but we will be ready for the challenge," he said.
"The bowlers have done a great job so far, but I think the batsmen do not give them enough runs to defend. We can't let that happen against South Africa."
Graeme Smith's side have the advantage of having played two matches at Trent Bridge during the tournament, while Pakistan's games were all confined to Lord's or Oval in London.
"Pakistan are a talented team who will arrive expecting to beat us," said Smith. "Regardless of who deserves to win going into a semi-final, it's about who plays best on the day. It's a simple matter."
Smith, however, warned Pakistan his team will not be beaten easily.
"We are professional and clinical but I think we have also proved that we have enough flair and enough options available to us to be the all-round package," he said.
"We have played at all the grounds, we have faced many different challenges on different wickets and defended low totals.
"So I think we are a well-rounded team going into the semis. We just need to give ourselves the best chance on Thursday and play our type of cricket."
Sri Lanka face the West Indies in the other semi-final at the Oval on Friday, with the final scheduled to take place at Lord's on Sunday.
Pakistan (from): Younus Khan (capt), Kamran Akmal, Shahzaid Hasan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Abdur Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Saeed Ajmal, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Aamir, Umar Gul, Ahmad Shahzad, Salman Butt.
South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (capt), Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Mark Boucher, Johan Botha, Albie Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Roelof van der Merwe, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel.
Umpires: Steve Davis (AUS) and Billy Bowden (NZL)
TV umpire: Simon Taufel (AUS)
Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)