Choking rears its head again
South Africa's limited-over captain AB de Villiers, in a pre-tournament press conference, had stated that choking for them was a 'thing of the past'. The manner in which they lost their game against Pakistan, in the eighth match of the ICC World Twenty20 at the R Premadasa Cricket Sta-dium yesterday, however, suggested otherwise.
The Proteas, have not won a major world title since their return from an apartheid-induced ban, succumbed to pressure and suffered a two-wicket defeat against Pakistan.
It was tail-ender Umar Gul who took the match away from the Proteas with a 17-ball 32, which included two fours and three huge sixes. His valiant effort gave him the man-of-the match award in an otherwise, low-scoring affair where South Africa had reduced Pakistan to 76 for 7 in 14.3 overs while defending a total of 133.
Despite the loss, the South Africans weren't dejected at the post-match briefing. They were looking forward to their upcoming games against India and Australia.
“It is a totally different tournament. It's encouraging the way we fought back in the match. We have two more games left and we are hopeful that we will do better in the coming matches to qualify into the semifinal,” said Robin Peterson, at the post-match press conference.
“We lost it in the last five overs. But we must give credit to (Umar) Gul who played a brilliant innings under pressure. He simply took the game away from us,” the left-arm spinner added.
While there have been talks about how differently the pitches in Sri Lanka have played, the Premadasa, however, was a classic and helped the spinners. This was one of the reasons why the Pakistani spin bowlers kept the South African batsmen in check. Despite conceding several runs through their pacers, Peterson still didn't feel the need of an extra spinner in their team.
The turning pitch forced the Pakistani captain to bring Umar Gul into the attack only in the 18th over. Many questioned his presence in the team and actually termed him as a 'specialist fielder'. The lanky man, however, proved his worth with the bat to give Pakistan an exciting victory.
“We are confident as a team. Umar Akmal spoke to me and told me that I have the ability to score 15 to 20 runs in an over. In T20 match everybody should contribute and I am happy that I could do so with the bat today,” said Gul, who was dropped by Hashim Amla during his whirlwind knock.
“To me the team comes first. The spinners were doing well and that's why I came to bowl in the latter stage,” explained Gul.