INDIA ENTER FINALS

March 31st, 2011 by Ravi Matah | Posted in Sports   No Comments »
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India’s dream of a World Cup triumph at home is one step closer after their bowlers throttled Pakistan’s batsmen to set up a 29-run victory in the semi-final in Mohali. Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat at Motera Cricket Stadium, Mohali against Pakistan in the Semi-final of the World Cup 2011 on Wednesday. 
Sachin Tendulkar
Virender Sehwag gave India a magnificent start before Sachin Tendulkar survived a series of close calls to reach his half-century, and by the halfway mark he was the key to India posting a decent fighting total on a good batting pitch.

But that was not to be as Sehwag got out on 38 runs played with his usual gusto and Tendulkar also helped in building up the Indian innings with lady-luck sitting on his right shoulder.

Tendulkar was on 60 with Virat Kohli on 9, and India had reached 140 for 2 at the halfway point of their innings, with 300-plus total in sight. Pakistan had only them to blame for Tendulkar’s good fortune, after Misbah-ul-Haq put him down at midwicket on 27 and Younis Khan spilled a regulation chance at cover when Tendulkar had 45. 

 He was droped on four occassions at 27, 45, 70 and 81 and finally Shahid Afridi caught him at covers off a full-blooded shot from him.

Riaz was the man who Afridi had to thank for keeping Pakistan in the contest after India made a strong start and reached 114 for 1 off their first 18 overs. After Gautam Gambhir was stumped dancing down the pitch against Hafeez, Riaz grabbed two wickets in two balls – Virat Kohli caught at backward point and Yuvraj bowled by a yorker length low full toss for a duck. 

Gautam Gambhir was stumped off the bowling of Mohammad Hafeez for 27 when he advanced down the pitch.

Sehwag certainly looked at his best early, taking 21 off Umar Gul from the third over of the innings. India had chosen Ashish Nehra to replace R Ashwin.

In the end, India’s 260 for 9 was enough as their bowlers did a fine job, but had Pakistan helped themselves, the target could have been so much more gettable.

MS Dhoni was put down once and Wahab Riaz bowled very well and got five wickets. Umar Gul wilted under the pressure of a World Cup semi-final.

Indians displayed  a far more professional approach but for a moment it seemed that the decision of having three seamers and only one specialist spinner could backfire, but Ashish Nehra bowled superbly, particularly in the death overs where he gave away only one run and also took a wicket in an over.

Munaf Patel picked up two victims and Yuvraj Singh made up for his duck with a pair of wickets, but the most important breakthrough came when Harbhajan Singh bowled Umar Akmal for 29. It was a superb good-length delivery which sneaked through the gap between bat and pad and rattled the furniture.

Earlier, Akmal had struck a pair of sixes off Yuvraj, driving him over the sight screen and pulling him over midwicket, and anything was possible while he was at the crease. But Dhoni called on Harbhajan to replace Yuvraj, and with the first ball of his spell he came around the wicket and pushed one across Akmal, taking the off stump when the batsman played for the spin. Those were the few moments when it appeared that the match was in Pakistan’s grip.

But Shahid Afridi trying to accelerate the runs fell to Harbhajan when he skied a catch off a full toss, and it was only Misbah-ul-Haq left to take charge. He found it difficult trying top bat at both ends and was the last man out, caught on the boundary for 56 in the final over.

It was a disappointing end for Pakistan after their top order gave them hope. Mohammad Hafeez made an encouraging 43 before a string of eight dot balls from Munaf brought a brain-fade as Hafeez tried a premeditated paddle sweep from outside off stump and edged behind to Dhoni.

Soon after, the loss of Asad Shafiq brought the Mohali crowd to life, when he tried to cut a Yuvraj delivery and the middle stump was knocked back.

Every cricket lover was hoping to see the Century of centuries being made at MOhali ground by Sachin Tendulkar, but that was not to be. Tendulkar might be the finest batsman of his generation, but today he was the luckiest, being dropped four times. 

Before he had any of those lives, Tendulkar had survived two very tight calls on 23: an lbw decision that was given out by Ian Gould but on review proved to be spinning down leg, and a near-stumping the next delivery when he just got his back foot down in time after losing his balance reaching outside off. When Tendulkar was finally taken at cover by Afridi off the bowling of Ajmal, Pakistan’s relief was evident.

Nobody looked as fluent as the crease as Sehwag, who took 21 off Gul (0 for 69) from the third over of the innings. What looked like a 300-plus total in those early overs became 260 when Suresh Raina helped them recover from their middle-order failures.

Sachin Tendulkar was named the Man of the match.

Ravi Matah.

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