DUBAI // A few years ago Asoka de Silva became the “Shocker de Silva” after running up a list of poor decisions.
The overflowing criticism, and often angry reactions, led to his omission from the International Cricket Council’s Elite Umpire Panel in 2004 after a two-year stint.
The Sri Lankan was, however, back on the list in 2008 and still retains his ability to leave players and fans appalled.
De Silva did it again yesterday at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium with two shocking decisions that should give Pakistan some hope as they fight to get back into the first Test against South Africa after conceding a 132-run first-innings lead.
First he gave Alviro Petersen (26) leg-before. The batsman was clearly unhappy and replays showed the ball would have missed the stumps. In the case of Graeme Smith who made 34, the ball would have missed the wickets by a bigger margin, but De Silva gave the decision almost instantly. They were Pakistan’s only success as South Africa closed the day on 139 for two, 271 runs ahead.
Given the situation, Pakistan will face a tough ask in their second innings, but Azhar Ali, who scored a patient 172-ball 56 in the first innings, insists his team remain positive and ready for the challenge. “We tried to build some partnerships, but it didn’t happen,” Azhar said.
“That’s where I think we lost our way. Hopefully, we can make up for it in the second innings. We have to do it, there is no other way.
“We have to stay positive, we cannot afford to be negative. So nothing is over yet. Cricket is a funny game and we will be fighting. We will try to chase whatever target we are given.”
Starting the third day on 144 for two, Pakistan lost their last eight wickets for 72 runs; five of them – Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal, Adnan Akmal, Abdul Rehman, Azhar – for 32 runs, inside 15 overs.
Morne Morkel, the fast bowler, took five wickets. But it was Johan Botha, the spinner, who started the slide with three crucial wickets, starting with Younus Khan (35) who chipped the ball to AB de Villiers at midwicket. A brilliant catch by Hashim Amla at short leg saw the end of Misbah for nine.
Umar Akmal (four) then played a shot that could haunt him for some time to come. To his fifth ball, he charged down the track and attempted a heave over midwicket. The result was a leading edge for a comfortable catch to point.
“Stupid”, “insane”, “mindless” were some of the adjectives used to describe the shot by the exasperated Pakistan media corps. Azhar, however, refused to put any blame on Akmal. “It’s cricket and any batsman could have played such a shot,” he said. “That is the nature of the sport. It is not an easy wicket to play our shots on.”
South Africa (1st innings) 380
Pakistan (overnight 144-2):
Mohammad Hafeez c Smith b Harris 60
Taufeeq Umar lbw Morkel 42
Azhar Ali c Amla b Morkel 56
Younis Khan c de Villiers b Botha 35
Misbah-ul-Haq c Amla b Botha 9
Umar Akmal c Steyn b Botha 4
Adnan Akmal c Boucher b Steyn 10
Abdur Rehman c de Villiers b Morkel 1
Umar Gul not out 12
Wahab Riaz c Boucher b Morkel 5
Saeed Ajmal c Boucher b Morkel 2
Extras: (12lb) 12
TOTAL: (all out) 248
Fall of wickets: 1-105, 2-111, 3-176, 4-196, 5-202, 6-220, 7-225, 8-228, 9-246, 10-248
Bowling: Dale Steyn 18-3-58-1, Morne Morkel 21-7-54-5, Paul Harris 25-7-47-1, Jacques Kallis 8-3-16-0, Johan Botha 23-6-61-3.
South Africa (2nd innings):
Alviro Petersen lbw Rehman 26
Graeme Smith lbw Ajmal 34
Hashim Amla not out 44
Jacques Kallis not out 32
Extras: (1b, 1lb, 1nb) 3
TOTAL: (for 2 wickets) 139
Fall of wickets: 1-47, 2-76
Bowling: Umar Gul 8-0-34-0, Younis Khan 3-0-15-0 (1nb), Abdur Rehman 15-4-37-1, Mohammad Hafeez 11-3-20-0, Saeed Ajmal 11-1-31-1.