Umar Gul
Pakistan's Umar Gul during his match-winning 31 against South Africa in the World T20 at the Premadasa StadiumReuters

It might have been a low-scoring game, but the excitement levels could not have been higher as Pakistan, by the skin of their teeth, scampered home to a two-wicket victory over South Africa in a Group 2 Super Eights match at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

The two Umar's - Akmal and Gul - put together a match-winning 49-run eighth-wicket partnership from just 27 balls, after the match seemingly looked South Africa's for the taking. Needing a modest 134 to win, after the Proteas laboured to 133 for six, Pakistan got themselves into all sorts of trouble - they were seven for 63 with just a little over five overs remaining at one point.

Gul, who only bowled two overs in the South African innings, and Akmal, however, refused to give up with the fast bowler the aggressor, slamming the surprisingly poor South African death bowlers for one six after another in a refreshingly uninhibited 32 from 17 deliveries.

Gul got out in the last ball of the penultimate over, but needing just nine runs from the final over, Akmal, who made an unbeaten 43 off 41, hit a six off the second Morne Morkel delivery, before Saeed Ajmal edged Pakistan to victory.

Earlier, it looked like South Africa would coast to a win, after Imran Nazir, Mohammed Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed and Kamran Akmal fell with under 40 runs on the board; left-arm spinner Robin Peterson the pick of the bowlers.

Shoaib Malik and Akmal tried to steady the extremely rocky ship, but the former got out after uncharacteristically playing a poor shot off Jacques Kallis' bowling. Afridi might as well not have come onto the crease - out first ball trying to smash it for a six, when Pakistan were in dire need of cool heads.

That came when Gul joined Akmal with seven wickets gone, and little to no hope of victory - the duo pulling off a remarkable comeback for the sub-continent team.

In the first innings, South Africa also got to a horrible start as the Pakistan spinners spun a web  around the seemingly clueless Proteas batsmen. Instead of playing strokes with the full face of the bat, the South Africans inexplicably resorted to reverse sweeps and cross-batted shots, predictably falling prey to the guile and variety of the quality Pakistani spinners, who bowled 15 of the 20 overs.

After falling to 28 for three, the African side just could not accelerate the scoring at any point of time, and but for a timely innings from JP Duminy (48 from 38), they would not have reached even 133.

AB De Villiers, who came only at No. 6, threatened to cut loose at one point but fell at a crucial time when somebody was needed to hit a few boundaries in the final overs. Duminy, suffering from dehydration, did his best and took them the respectable score, which was nearly enough to see them through in their opening encounter.

Pakistan, however, will breathe a sigh of relief and will now be the favourites from the group to make it to the semi-finals.

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