2nd Super Six Match: Pakistan v South Africa
Trevor Chesterfield - 5 June 1999
Shots and Moin: a double edge of cut and thrust
Nottingham - It was about as bizarre as any limited overs innings you are likely to see in this World Cup: a clash between the brash and the bold, a thrust from each side as compelling as any command performance you are going to see.
The pity is that medium-fast bowler Steve Elworthy, known as 'Shots' to his South African teammates and Moin Khan, occasionally referred to as 'Dasher' in some Pakistan circles, did not cross paths in this Super Six test of skills at Trent Bridge.
Not surprisingly the outing had been billed as the 'showdown': Group A log leaders against Group B equivalents. The former favourites, South Africa up against the newly installed fancy team among the bookies; Pakistan now considered likely to repeat the 1992 and thus keep the title in the Asian sub-continent.
Yet today we had the classic confrontation without either major combatant looking down the pitch without so much as a glance, unless it was when Elworthy was fielding close to Moin when he was batting during his moments of bash and wallop which goes hand in batting glove with the slogs.
For someone who fancied himself as a batsman when he was at junior school and played, with Graeme Hick, in the same then Rhodesia side in an under/13 tournament in Pretoria, Elworthy was quite relaxed about his game. In fact he might have been playing for Zimbabwe and sharing the new ball this World Cup but for a parental decision in the early 1980s to move to South Africa.
At a venue where 11 months ago he made his Test debut for South Africa against England, Elworthy's bowling yesterday was a study of style, guile and attention to detail, and on a pitch which was inclined to be a touch slow. What a change to Chelmsford a week ago where he had over-pitched or bowled shortish at times and was generally out of sorts with his action if not his rhythm.
There was a suggestion he had bowled 'beautifully' as if he had just emerged from one of those expensive hair salons and preparing to make his TV debut. His 10 overs were strung together in succession: figures of 10-2-23-2 are not, if anything a tribute to his general economy and underlined his value to the side.
That it was done on a pitch where a race between the ball and the tortoise might has seen the ball win by the thread of the seam also shows how he was as troubles to the batsmen as Moin was when he batted. While Elworthy seemed to have the ball attached to an invisible yo-yo string, ducking it around, probing batsmen's defences and troubling their general composure yet somehow missing the edge of the bat by a greying whisker, Moin showed why he is a Mr Fix It in the lower Pakistan order.
There is a little bravado, some cavalier, perhaps but more than anything improvisation and an ability to make the most of what loose bowling there is. It is called taking your chances and he did just that, lifting Pakistan out of the trough of trouble to a score of some respectability.
Before his arrival the batting had been markedly indifferent, bothered more about occupation of the crease than the tactics of working the ball around to rotate the strike to keep the board moving. Admittedly South Africa's bowling had been tight and accurate enough to frustrate the normally free-flowing Saeed Anwar, Ijaz Ahmed and Inzaman-ul-Haq.
Enter Moin and his dash and flair in the city where Robin Hood had once roamed lifted the spirits of the supporters who had little be cheerful about. A matter of 45 runs in four overs lifted their spirits: slapping Allan Donald for a couple of sixes, planting him for extras boundaries and lifting Shaun Pollock clear of the inner ring added the touch of tandoori the innings required to give it needed spice.
When Moin Khan arrived the scoreboard did not look at all a pretty sight at 118 for five. When he left with 63 against his name in the scorebook he had revived Pakistan's hopes of setting a challenging target: the runs were off 56 balls with six fours and two sixes. With 81 off the last 10 overs, mostly thanks to Moin's efforts, South Africa knew they faced a challenging afternoon.
Shoaib: The destroyer and the destroyed
If Shoaib Akhtar drove on British roads as fast as he was timed by the speed gun at Trent Bridge when he bowled in the World Cup today he would be ticketed and no doubt deprived of his license.
And at first South Africa felt the high-powered blast of the young Pakistani in over-drive as they crumbled to 39 for three and later 58 for five: a top-order again almost decimated by the pace of young pretender to Jeff Thomson's crown.
Quiet devastating stuff. With Azhar Mahmood and Wasim Akram adding to their misery there was some doubt, at 58 for five by the 20th over, whether South Africa would survive.
This was no platform for victory. A second Chelmsford loomed and the media vultures at home, so far from the action and so far from reality, were waiting to peck over the carcass.
The speed gun read 95 then 91 and then 91again. Enough to have braver men quaking in their pads and boots on yet another inhospitable afternoon of sullen midlands cloud spreading gloom and heavy with the threat of rain. With 221 needed for victory and the rate required climbing to around seven an over, Shoaib seemed invincible.
Then up stands Lance Klusener, the Natal swashbuckler whose broadsword of willow has become one of the star attractions of this tournament. Up charges Shoaib: six over mid wicket. Up he runs again: four through the covers. It is over 46 of the South African innings has reached 177 for seven, with only four runs squeezed out of three overs before, South Africa were becoming just a little desperate.
Now it is 194 for seven: 15 runs off the over, and Shoaib, who had done so much to wreck South Africa, had lost it. His rhythm, his pace, his direction, his confidence had been mauled and rattled, his psyche batted out of shape by the game's modern master blaster.
It was the sort of humiliation which made the supporters cringe and grimace in anguish. If you read the headline and the jingoism of the tabloids, the Rawalpindi Express had worked up such a head of steam no batsman stood a chance. Suddenly he look forlorn and bothered, and his skipper, Wasim Akram, put an arm around his shoulders in a consoling manner. Not the sort of happy ending quiet envisaged: the destroyer had been destroyed.
Even Wasim, cool, canny and so much in command, felt the wielding Klusener sword. Another six over mid wicket. From 46 needed to win off 36 balls, it came down to 18 off 18, then it was over: a scooped drive by Klusener for two the attempted catch by Saeed Anwar totally botched and a distraught Shoaib helped from the field, shepherded by his numbed teammates. What should not have happened did and Klusener earned his fourth man of the match award of the tournament.