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Thank you S Africa, Pakistan in semis

South Africa left a lasting impression on the World Twenty20 without a win when they forced the demise of mighty India in a so-called group of death Tuesday.

It was the fifth ball of the 17th over when Robin Peterson took a single off Lakshmipathy Balaji and sent Pakistani fans into a burst of joy and celebrations. South Africa reached 122 and even if India win, they were guaranteed a flight back home and Pakistan were in semi finals at last after a tense wait, now four times in a row at the biggest stage of the shortest format of the game.

South Africa have had a few of their parties cruelly crashed by teams world over, but here they nipped India’s. Knocked out of the tournament already, they first won the toss India most wanted to win, then kept India down to 152, and followed it by reaching 122 and knocking them out of the World Twenty20.

Having recorded a total of 152-6 India needed to restrict South Africa to a total of just 121 or less in order to leapfrog above Pakistan and sneak their way into the semi finals where they would have faced Sri Lanka. But it could not happen.

What was left then was for the record books – to see if India could win the battle though they had lost the war. South Africa had no intention of relinquishing the game and the battle was on till well beyond the law of averages. In the end, South Africa were left agonisingly short, by one run as the Morkel brothers hit a six each but were bowled by Balaji. Another heartbreaking loss then capped up arguably their worst campaign at a World Cup, across formats. Gary Kirsten has now coached teams to nine defeats out of nine in World Twenty20 Super Eights.

India, despite winning four out of five games in the tournament, go out of Group 2 alongside South Africa, who won just two games out of five. A tough pill for India really, being undone on net run-rate, that hammering against Australia really cost them. But the reality is that they have failed again at the World T20 and have a very poor record since winning the inaugural edition in 2007. South Africa’s miserable run at major tournaments continues too, a semi-final in 2009 is all they have to show from the four World T20s – this is a bit of a disaster for them considering the side they came into this tournament with and their No 2 world ranking.

But it would be unjustified if not praise the show put up by Pakistan players out of character. It were they who bounced back brilliantly from a defeat at the hands of the arch-rivals on the battlefield and raised the bar so high that almost proved untouchable for the Indians and got a sweet revenge by winning the war on a larger perspective.

Indians were really undone by the Pakistan’s brilliance in the field earlier in the day when they caught the mighty and almost untouchable Australian side in a spin web and outplayed both their rivals on and off the field.

The scenes towards the end were diametrically opposite of the ones seen after the earlier match. Back then, both Australia – assured qualification – and Pakistan – very close to it – went off smiling, never mind the actual result. Here both teams were dejected, never mind the result. There were tears in the eyes of Indian players much before the end of the match with grim faces.

For a country denied international cricket at home for a long time, it was fascinating to watch the way Pakistan have dominated in Twenty20 cricket. Despite limited opportunities, the green brigade is the most successful team in the format. At all the World T20 editions, they have been the team to beat. They were runners-up in 2007, lifted the trophy in 2009 and reached the semi finals in the third one. Here too, except for the loss to India in the Super Eights, they have won all their games.

The most impressive has been how they turn up for the pressure games. Against India, they looked tense but when the heat was on in the final league game against Australia, they were a transformed side. The 32-run defeat was Australia’s first of the tournament.

All the qualifying rounds, calculations, minnows, group stages, different grounds and permutations are now done with and we move to good old-fashioned knockout cricket. First semi final is on Thursday (tomorrow) with hosts Sri Lanka taking on Pakistan, that is going to be a humdinger in Colombo. The second semi follows on Friday as Australia and West Indies engage in what should be a really interesting match.

courtesy: The nation

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