Battle Mohali won! India one step from WC glory
Mohali: India beat archrivals Pakistan in a thumping fashion to script a final showdown with Sri Lanka on Saturday. Chasing 261 to win, Pakistan fell short by 29 runs at Mohali, a result that saw India’s World Cup record remain intact (India have won all five encounters against Pak in World Cup).
The victory saw the tournament favourites sending a strong warning to the Lankans as Team India set sights on World Cup immortality.
It was a disciplined effort by the bowlers that won them the game. Harbhajan came good at the right time, making his presence felt as he got the prized scalp of Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi (19), exposing the tail order with the required rate spiralling up. Nehra followed up the pressure game with a wicket of his own to bring the last wobbly feet on the turf. He scalped his second victim to get the penultimate wicket, sealing the fate of the visitors.
Munaf Patel had already clean bowled Pakistan’s chances of a comeback by sending Abdul Razzaq (3) back in the stables before the final fall.
Local boy Yuvraj Singh too was on fire, spinning two batsmen out in quick succession to give a strong reason for the fans to cheer.
First, it was a beautiful sight as Asad Shafiq’s (30) middle stump was shaken with the visitor’s scorecard reading 103/3 in 23.5 overs. Younis Khan (13) was the next man to go as he was caught brilliantly by Suresh Raina.
In the first half of the match, India managed 260/9, putting the onus on the bowlers to defend the total on a fast outfield and they defended the task in style.
Tendulkar (85), Sehwag (38) and Raina’s (36*) cameos ensured that the team was not bundled cheaply, offering some solid runs on the board.
The wrecker-in-charge for Pakistan, Wahab Riaz, was rewarded with a rich five-wicket haul in the most crucial game of his life after his scalping of Zaheer Khan in the final over.
Harbhajan Singh was entertaining for a short while before being stumped for a score of 12 runs.
Before Mahi’s exit, Sachin ‘super-lucky’ Tendulkar was out after being dropped left, right and centre at a score of 85 runs to a brilliant turner by Saeed Ajmal that went straight into the hands of Shahid Afridi.
In the middle overs, Pakistan bowlers had continued with their gritty effort, claiming two quick wickets in the form of Virat Kohli (9 off 21 balls) and the danger-man Yuvraj Singh on his very first ball.
India had lost the second wicket in Gautam Gambhir (27 off 32 balls) as he was stumped by Kamran Akmal to give Mohammad Hafeez his first scalp of the day.
Before the southpaw’s exit, Tendulkar had survived a scare in the eleventh over as he was adjudged lbw but the decision review said otherwise, soon after, the penultimate ball of the over saw the third umpire coming into play again as wicketkeeper Akmal clipped off the stumps but the final breather came for the Indian fans.
Sachin was dropped by Misbah-ul-Haq sometime later and the three time lucky master made sure that the Pakistani bowlers paid for their mistakes, taking the Indian scorecard past the 100-run mark in the sixteenth over.
Pakistan speedster Wahab Riaz got the prized wicket of Virender Sehwag (38 off 25 balls) just when he had almost taken away the bite off the new ball bowlers with his swashbuckling boundaries.
Sehwag had started off early, hitting a boundary in the first over to register his 1000th run against archrivals Pakistan.
India would expect a cracker of a start from the Delhi blaster in the World Cup final at Wankhede stadium on 2nd April as the perfect stage is set for a sub-continental showdown for world cricketing supremacy.