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Proteas have no fear of Pakistan


South Africa are confident they can handle Umar Gul's reverse swing when they clash with Pakistan in the World Twenty20 semifinal on Thursday.

Gul is the main reason the enigmatic Pakistanis have progressed so far in the tournament after a stuttering start, and will be expected to deliver again to see his team through to the final.

The right-arm seamer grabbed a sensational five wickets for six runs against New Zealand in a must-win at the Oval last Saturday, the first ever five-wicket haul in Twenty20 internationals.

Gul, who was the highest wicket-taker in the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa when Pakistan ended runners-up to India, again tops the list with 12 scalps in this tournament.

South African captain Graeme Smith, buoyed by his side's unbeaten run in the tournament, admitted Gul will be the main threat to their chances of reaching the final.

"Umar has obviously bowled really well," said Smith of the bowler who comes into the attack in the later part of the innings and extracts reverse swing to the surprise of his rivals.

"Their tactics are pretty up front, in the sense that they have been holding him back and using other guys first," Smith said.

"We have obviously discussed it. We have toured the sub-continent before and come across that type of situation, but it is something we will talk about."

Gul will find the slow Trent Bridge pitch different from the one at the Oval, but Pakistan have a line of spinners to exploit the conditions.

Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal is joint second with Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga in the wicket-taker's list with 11 wickets, while leg-spinning allrounder Shahid Afridi has eight.

"We have the bowlers to do well in all conditions," said Pakistani coach Intikhab Alam. "I look forward to the challenge of playing South Africa."

Pakistan were routed by the same rivals in a practice match ahead of the tournament at Trent Bridge, losing by 59 runs after being bowled out for 127 in reply to South Africa's 186-7.

Alam insisted his team had come a long way since then.

"We had just come to England then and were getting used to the conditions," he said. "Now we are well-prepared. South Africa are certainly not unbeatable.

"If you play to your strengths and do the basics right any opponent can be beaten."

Smith, however, said his team had done enough so far to give him confidence that Pakistan's challenge can be quelled on a wicket where South Africa beat defending champions India by 12 runs on Tuesday.

"We have had a few different challenges, and it was good for us to play on a surface like this and beat India on it," he said.

"For us to be in the final would be terrific. We are professional and clinical, but I think we have proven that we have enough flair and options available to us to be the all-round package.

"This team has come a long way, and we have proved that. How we have played under pressure has been incredible."

Sri Lanka face the West Indies in the other semifinal at the Oval on Friday, with the final scheduled to take place at Lord's on Sunday.

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