After 13 long days, we’re finally here at the business end of the competition. South Africa, favourites to win the title, and Pakistan, who’ve peaked at just the right time to make it to the last four, will take on each other in the first semi-final of the ICC World Twenty20 2009 at Trent Bridge later today.
On the basis of current form, Pakistan are no match to a formidable South African side. However, the tricky format that Twenty20 cricket is, coupled with the fact that Pakistan can lift their game to beat even the best in the business, today’s match promises to make for exciting viewing.
Historically, South Africa have known to choke in the big games. But under the able leadership of Graeme Smith, South Africa will be hoping to extend their 7-match winning streak. The Proteas have been termed the best ‘well rounded’ team of all the teams competing in the tournament; the top order – which will be boosted by the return of Jacques Kallis – has been in awesome form. Every one of the South African batsmen has made a significant score during the competition.
A special mention needs to be made of AB de Villiers, who seems to be making the most of his purple form; the 25-year old is second in the list of leading run scorers in the competition, Herschelle Gibbs, JP Duminy, Albie Morkel, Mark Boucher and Roelof van der Merwe complete a formidable batting order, while the bowling line-up looks equally frightening in the hands of Dale Steyn, Wayne Parnell and Johan Botha.
For Pakistan, after looking unimpressive in the early days in the tournament, seem to be peaking at just the right time. They crushed New Zealand and Ireland in their Super Eight matches to take a lot of confidence going into the semi-final. Man-for-man, Younus Khan’s team too look just as capable – if not more – when compared to the South Africans.
Kamran Akmal and Shahzaib Hasan make for a very dangerous opening pair – even if their rate of failure is significantly higher compared to the regular openers. The middle-order boasts of lots of experience – which can come in handy in such crunch matches, and Shahid Afridi coming good with the bat in the last two games can only be bad news for Pakistan’s opponents.
On the bowling front, the Proteas need to watch out for Umar Gul – the leading wicket-taker in the tournament – who has been very smartly used by the Pakistan captain, while Shahid Afridi has been miserly while picking up eight wickets. Abdur Razzaq, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Aamer and Shoaib Malik have been capable support acts with the ball.
Shahid Afridi v AB de Villiers – contest between two smart performers.
AB de Villiers has shown that Twenty20 isn’t all about the big shots, while Afridi has been a wily performer with the ball – often coming in to bowl to curtain the flow of runs. The performance of these two will have a huge bearing in their team’s success.
Shahzaib Hasan and Kamran Akmal v Dale Steyn.
The two Pakistan openers are unorthodox and always ready to take the attack to the opposition. In this case, they will be up and against one of the best new ball bowlers in the business today. Steyn is capable of bowling quick, has a good yorker and a deadly bouncer bowled at good a pace. This contest is one that is going to make for compulsive viewing.
Pakistan spinners’ 20 wickets have come at an average of 14.00 and have conceded runs at a rate of 5.96 runs per over, while the seamers (18 wickets) have been slightly more expensive at 19.11 runs a wicket and 7.02 runs per over.