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India march into World Cup final with emphatic win over Pakistan

Thursday March 31, 2011 09:16:52 AM, Abhishek Roy, IANS

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Mohali: It was a match destined to go down in history. And it did as India triumphed over Pakistan Wednesday to enter their third World Cup final and the entire nation erupted in a frenzy of jubilation, warm hugs and firecrackers.

Pakistan were lulled into believing that half their job was done when they restricted the mighty Indian batting to a scratchy 260/9 when 300 plus were considered the par score. They did not reckon with a rejuvenated Indian bowling and fielding and never looked like getting there on a slow turner, even after they got a good start. In the end, India bowled them out for 231 with a ball to go to win by 29 runs.

Whoops of joy echoed across India as the boys in blue, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni are now just a step short of grabbing the World Cup -- the first time since 1983 when the Kapil Dev-led side won the Cup at Lord's, London.

India now take on Sri Lanka in an all-Asian final at the Wankhede Stadium Saturday. The Sri Lankans Tuesday beat New Zealand in the first semifinal at Colombo by five wickets.

It was all worth it. Leaving office early, postponing that urgent dentist's appointment, rescheduling that important assignment to sit in front of the television and root for India, ball to ball, stroke by stroke.

India's skipper Dhoni got it all right, right from picking his eleven for the match to planning his bowling changes and posting the right men at the right positions in the field. He chose just five mainline bowlers to do the job and that included Yuvraj Singh. Before he went in for toss the experts thought the decision to drop Ravichandran Ashwin and play Ashish Nehra was ill-conceived.

Like Nehra against South Africa, Munaf, too, had a bad game against Australia, but both bowled superbly Wednesday. The other maligned bowler Harbhajan Singh turned the game India's way by castling Umar Aklmal when he was threatening to take it away with his belligerent hitting. A coincidence, the wickets were shared equally by the bowlers -- Zaheer Khan (2/58), Munaf Patel (2/40), Ashish Nehra (2/33), local boys Yuvraj Singh (2/57) and Harbhajan Singh (2/43).

It was such disciplined work in the field that India did not concede an extra till till the 38th over. This is quite in contrast with what the Pakistanis did in the field, dropping catch after catch and that, too, of Sachin Tendulkar.

The Pakistanis fell back on the asking rate after the mandatory Powerplay and could never recover as none of their top-order batsmen could force the pace. By the time the slog overs began, they were well behind and only Misbah-Ul-Haq (56) lasted at the crease with the tail. They got to the 200-run mark only at the end of the 45th over and by then they had lost nine wickets. Their batting Powerplay, taken in the 46th over, became meaningless.

It was the brilliance of Man-of-the-Match Sachin Tendulkar, who may have missed his hundredth international century by 15 runs, but he took India to highly competitive 260 for nine in 50 overs, with Suresh Raina chipping in with 36 useful runs.

The Pakistani batting, barring vice captain Misbah (56), failed to come good against India. All the Pakistani batsmen got decent start but failed to build partnerships.

Openers Mohammad Hafeez (43) and Kamran Akmal (19) stroked the boundaries but the singles and twos were hard to get. India's pace spearhead Zaheer Khan ended the 44-run stand in the ninth over, enticing Kamran into a drive and Yuvraj took an easy catch at point.

A moment of madness cost Hafeez his wicket. The all-rounder, for reasons known only to him, attempted a premeditated heave off Munaf Patel's full delivery outside the off-stump but edged to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Yuvraj soon joined the party, dismissing Asad Shafiq (30) and the veteran Younis Khan (13) in two overs as Pakistan were down to 106 for four after the half-way mark. From there on, Pakistan could never recover and lost wickets at regular intervals.

Earlier, India, too, failed to capitalise on a good start following a recurrent middle-order collapse. But Raina's cameo (36 off 39 balls)gave India a decent total.

Seeing he was running out of partners, Suresh Raina struck a few hefty blows to make sure that India, for once, didn't falter in the bating powerplay (45-49 overs), scoring 43 runs for the loss of just one wicket.

Tendulkar (85), who survived three dropped catches and a referral reversal, and Virender Sehwag (38), scored at nine an over in the first five overs.

Sehwag was in full flow, stroking the ball fluently. He drove pacer Umar Gul's third delivery through the covers for a four to bring up his 1,000 runs against Pakistan. Gul, who has been one of Pakistan's most successful bowlers in the tournament, did not know what hit him in his third over as Sehwag trounced him for five fours to garner 21 runs.

Tendulkar, who struck 11 fours in his 115-ball knock, and Sehwag then came down heavily on Abdul Razzaq, prompting Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi to replace the veteran all-rounder with young Wahab Riaz and the left-arm pacer suddenly started posing problems with his angle. He looked more dangerous once he started getting reverse swing and he ended up with his first fifer -- five for 46.





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