Gul heroics sink South Africa

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Tail-ender Umar Gul emerged the unlikely hero as Pakistan pipped South Africa by two wickets in Friday's thrill-a-minute World Twenty20 Super Eight fixture in Colombo.

Tail-ender Umar Gul emerged the unlikely hero as Pakistan pipped South Africa by two wickets in Friday's thrill-a-minute World Twenty20 Super Eight fixture in Colombo.

Out of form with the ball, resigned to fourth change in the attack and afforded just two overs, which proved costly, seamer Gul later weighed in with a career-best 32 from just 17 balls to rectify his otherwise waning contribution to the XI.

Restricted to a modest total of 133 for six by the Pakistan spinners, with JP Duminy's standalone 48 at least allowing somewhat of a defence, the Proteas were quick to strike back with the ball.

Holding their own, and occasionally upstaging their opposite numbers, South African spinners Johan Botha, Robin Peterson and Duminy enjoyed plenty of grip and turn from the R Premadasa Stadium pitch.

Their combined efforts reduced Pakistan's pursuit to a lowly 63 for six one delivery into the 13th over, and for all intents and purposes, appeared to have the result wrapped up for South Africa.

Gul, however, defied expectation – and quickly resigned a 19-ball spell that delivered just two runs to the past with some resoundingly clean hitting. With middle-order batsman Umar Akmal along for the ride, Gul was at the fore of a 13-delivery burst that brought all of 40 runs.

Entirely helped by the wayward fodder of seamer Albie Morkel, who bowled far too short far too often, Gul tucked into a trio of handsome sixes and a couple of token fours.

Such was the seesaw nature of the game, Gul's late departure to pace ace Dale Steyn, who completed proud figures of three for 22 in the losing cause, had South Africa remain in the hunt despite the tail-ender's blitz.

At the opposite end of the fluctuation, though, was Akmal's six over midwicket off a Morne Morkel full toss – and number 10 Saeed Ajmal's edge for four to seal the deal with two balls to spare.

Earlier, it took Duminy's fighting cameo to rescue a South African total otherwise destined for double-figure disparity.

The Proteas ended some 20 runs shy of what would have been considered a decent tally. Duminy's knock made up more than a third of the runs, with the batting side again at the mercy of Pakistan's spin trio.

Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal conceded a mere 75 runs from their combined 12 overs, while a fourth slow bowler in Raza Hasan – picked ahead of seamer Sohail Tanvir – cost a mere dozen in three.

Friday's result allowed Pakistan a major foot up over the rest of their Group 2 contenders, while the Proteas will find it very tough – phyiscally and mentally – to come back from a scrap they really needed to win to justify their hopes of fetching ICC silverware later this month.

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