Pakistan break the South African hoodoo

Written by: Sunil Gavaskar
Published: Wednesday, March 29, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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A fearsome burst of fast bowling by Shoaib Akhtar propelled Pakistan into the finals of the Sharjah tournament. It was a significant win not only because it got Pakistan in the finals by right and not through the run rate equation, but also because it broke the sequence of wins that South Africa had over them. Amazingly, Pakistan had not won a one-day game against South Africa since 1994, and therefore the win will even the psychological superiority that South Africa had exercised over their talented but unpredictable opponents.

The South Africans rested some of their key players including Hansie Cronje and Jacques Kallis and their second string was hardly impressive against the Pakistanis. Their batting has been heavily dependent on the starts that Kirsten and Gibbs give and later Kallis provides: Both the technique and the aggression to the batting. Cronje brings along a wealth of experience, but apart from these players, the South African batting does look a bit shaky against the kind of variety that Pakistan bowlers possess.

The Pakistanis started poorly and while it is true that the advantage of the field restrictions for the first fifteen overs has to be taken, it also makes cricketing sense to try and get a feel of the wicket before launching into extravagant strokes. Inzamam's innings against India was the classic example of how a watchful beginning can be translated to an explosive end and with him being adjudged leg before contentiously, the Pakistanis had to rely on Yousuf Youhana to give their innings some stability and substance.

Youhana has been guilty in the past of throwing his wicket away unnecessarily, but here he played a fine innings that took Pakistan to a score that India had found difficult to defend in both their matches against the South Africans.

Kirsten's injury was a big setback for he and Gibbs rotate the strike well and occasionally play the blazing big shot. Still, with almost half the target score achieved and with 9 wickets in hand, the South Africans were looking as if their winning sequence against Pakistan would continue. Then came Shoaib's fiery over and Moin quickly brought back the experienced Wasim who got the dangerous Pollock and Waqar polished off the tail.

Pakistan's fielding also was top class, with youngster Imran Nazir, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi and Youhana being outstanding. The burly Inzamam brought off a fine diving catch and made up for his lack of runs in this game.

It was the kind of effort that the Pakistanis reserve against the Indians and it has ensured that the finals will be in front of a virtually packed house.

Once the Pakistanis are on a roll, it is difficult to stop them and they would want to win this tournament not only to show that Sharjah is their favourite venue but to show the cricketing world that they and not South Africa are the number two team in the world !

Professional Management Group

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