Umar Gul and Shane Watson shone brightly under lights to steer Pakistan and Australia to important wins in the Super Eights of the World Twenty20 on Friday.
Gul turned an unlikely hero with the bat as Pakistan, chasing South Africa’s modest 133-6, survived a middle-order collapse to win by two wickets with two balls to spare in a thrilling Group 2 match.
Watson grabbed 3-34 and struck 72 off 42 balls to lift power-packed Australia to an emphatic nine-wicket win over India in the second match of the doubleheader in Colombo.
Gul, a medium-pacer who averaged less than 10 with the bat in Twenty20 internationals, smashed two fours and three sixes in his 32 off 17 balls after Pakistan had slumped to 76-7 in the 15th over.
Gul and Umar Akmal, who remained unbeaten on 43, combined to share a match-winning partnership of 49 in 27 balls.
“We were lucky to get there,” Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez said. “There were a few bad shots early in the innings, but in the end it was a great team effort. I knew Gul could play big shots and the good thing is that everyone in the team is contributing. The bowlers did well to keep South Africa to a low score.”
South African skipper A.B. de Villiers said he was proud of the way his team fought back after batting badly.
“We probably lost it in the last five overs, but I am very proud the way we came back so strongly,” he said.
Watson, who was adjudged man of the match for the third consecutive game, shared an opening stand of 133 with David Warner (63 not out) as Australia eased past India’s 140-7 in the 15th over.
Warner smashed three sixes and seven fours, while Watson plundered seven sixes and two fours in a batting treat for a sell-out crowd of 35,000 at the Premadasa Stadium.
The pair treated the India bowlers with disdain as Warner lofted Harbhajan Singh for two successive sixes and Watson hit leg-spinner Piyush Chawla for two sixes in his first over.
When seamer Irfan Pathan came on to bowl the 10th over, Watson greeted him with a sequence of six, six and four to bring up Australia’s 100 in the same over.
Watson fell in the 14th over when just eight more runs were needed for victory, caught in the covers off Yuvraj Singh.
Watson’s match-winning display followed his 51 and 3-26 against Ireland and 41 not out and 2-29 in the second game against the West Indies.
“The last couple of games have been pretty good,” the 31-year-old Watson said. “It’s nice when things come together like this. Batting is probably a bit more enjoyable than bowling, when it is two of you against 11 of the opposition. That’s probably more satisfying, but I enjoy being an all-rounder.”
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said a brief 10-minute stoppage for rain at the start of Australia’s innings cost his team the game.
“Rain just came at the wrong time,” he said. “A wet ball is not good for spinners. That was the main reason we lost. It is important to look at what mistakes we made, but it is also important to get this defeat out of the system and prepare for the future.”
‘GANGNAM STYLE’ GAYLE
AFP, PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka
Maverick West Indies batsman Chris Gayle is dancing down the wicket at the World Twenty20, performing his own energetic version of the global hit Gangnam Style.
The eccentric dance, based on a wacky series of horse-riding moves, has become a worldwide sensation for South Korean musician Park Jae-sang, attracting more than 295 million viewers on YouTube this year.