Tendulkar leads India to victory in tense battle for local pride
India 260-9 Pakistan 231 (India win by 29 runs)
Well, that's the really important bit done and dusted. India must now somehow stir themselves for the inconsequential affair of the World Cup final itself. Amid much excitement but little matching drama, they defeated Pakistan last night in the semi-final and will face their fellow hosts, Sri Lanka, in Mumbai on Saturday.
While it might be seen as destiny fulfilled if India win the competition for the second time, they would probably be forgiven if it does not work out. The whole nation, half of which seemed to have made its way to the small ground in Mohali, considered last night's result a matter of honour. Defeat would have been a devastating blow to national pride whatever the players might have said about somebody having to win.
Pakistan, the travelling troubadours of world cricket, will not face such outrage for once. There should be no effigies of their players burnt in the streets of Lahore for failing their compatriots. It would have been one of the wonders of the modern world had they managed to prevail, given their level in the rankings, the constant turmoil prevalent in the running of the game in their country and their status as pariahs who cannot play at home, and who are pretty often suspected of sharp practice when they turn up and play.
It would be unfair to suggest India's win by 29 runs was never in doubt. Between innings there was considerable doubt among their supporters that the 260 for 9 they managed from 50 overs would be sufficient, considering the high-scoring reputation of the surface at the ground. One innings of note from their opponents' top five and the target could soon be overhauled. Had Pakistan not chased 322 to win here barely three years ago when Younis Khan, who was playing last night, had scored a silken 117 from 110 balls?
These are the fears that crowd in on supporters who desperately want to win. But Pakistan were not in the mood for victory. They shelled five catches, committing the huge whopper of dropping Sachin Tendulkar four times, which is like leaving all the doors and windows open in the house when the world's best burglar is in the neighbourhood.
If Pakistan could do that, the likelihood was that nobody would have the patience and fortitude to stay around long enough on a pitch that was not quite as friendly for batting as it has been in the past. So it proved, and some time before the formal end of the tie it was clear that India had the game in hand.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's captain, who showed rare glimpses of elation when Pakistani wickets fell, said: "We said before the tournament started that it was important to peak at the right time. Everyone in this side has been tested and I think we're ready for it."
The man of the match – for the 62nd time in his career and the ninth in World Cup matches – was the blessed Tendulkar. He was put down on 27, 45, 70 and 81, all of them eminently catchable chances at midwicket (twice), extra cover and behind the wicket. In addition, he was reprieved twice before all that when, on 23, he was given out leg before to Saeed Ajmal, against whom he was dumbfounded throughout.
More in hope than expectation, since the ball looked to be going on to hit the stumps for all the world, he asked for a review and the replays showed the ball would have missed.
Two balls later he might have been stumped but the slow-motion camera was not quite conclusive enough for a verdict to be upheld.
As a piece of sporting theatre, the match could not possibly live up to its billing but it was perhaps more important that the feverishly anticipated event, which became a diplomatic exercise as much as a sporting contest, went off without trouble. The security, intense by any standards, appeared to have worked.
Shahid Afridi, the defeated captain, said: "I would like to congratulate the Indian team and the Indian nation. They deserved their win. We played well in the competition and the boys did a great job. I want to say sorry to our people, we tried our level best and I hope everybody enjoyed it."
India were given an electrifying start which stirred the cockles of the crowd immediately. In the context of what was to come later, the nine fours that Virender Sehwag struck so thunderously in his 25-ball innings were vital. After 10 overs they meant India had reached 73 and, as the pitch withdrew its favours, it also allowed them to take stock.
Although the ball was turning, it also began to stop in the pitch, which allowed the seamers to play a role. Pakistan's most successful bowler was Wahab Riaz, best known to English followers for exchanging blows with Jonathan Trott on the Nursery Ground at Lord's last summer when England and Pakistan were engaged in an increasingly acrimonious one-day series. He took 5 for 46 with some smart changes of pace, slanting the ball across the right handers.
Just when it seemed India might be a little too shy of a decent target, Suresh Raina scored a bustling 36 from 39 balls at the end. As Tendulkar observed later, it made the difference.
Pakistan started brightly but not at India's pace. What looked as though it might be a feasible chase became a distant one. Their highest partnership was for their first wicket and no pair stayed around long enough. India might have been a spinner short, having preferred three seamers, but they each performed adequately enough to complete their full overs allocation and each took two wickets.
Misbah-ul-Haq scored Pakistan's only half-century but he always looked as though he was playing in a doomed cause. The most dramatic incident of the day took place outside the ground when an ICC observer, seeking out illegal vendors, stamped on a balloon bearing the Indian tricolour. The ICC apologised to the whole Indian nation.
And so, at last, to the final. It is in Mumbai, which just happens to be Tendulkar's home ground. We might not have seen anything yet after all.
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Ajmal has Tendulkar given out lbw, but, after a review, the ball is shown to be sliding down leg, by millimetres.
Tendulkar fails to read Ajmal's doosra but, after lurching for the ball, gets his right foot back just in time.
Fielder Misbah ul-Haq
Tendulkar pulls the ball hard to midwicket, and Misbah gets both hands on the ball but cannot hold on.
Fielder Younis Khan
Tendulkar drives in the air to extra cover; Younis moves a little to his right and drops an easy catch.
Fielder Kamran Akmal
Tendulkar edges a leg-break behind, and Kamran shells a hard chance to his right.
Fielder Umar Akmal
Tendulkar whips one to midwicket – Akmal gets both hands to it but still drops it.
Punjab Cricket Association Stadium: ICC World Cup semi-final (one day): India beat Pakistan by 29 runs; India won toss
V Sehwag lbw b Riaz 38/0/9/25/30
S R Tendulkar c Afridi b Ajmal 85/0/11/115/159
G Gambhir st Kamran Akmal b Hafeez 27/0/2/32/55
V Kohli c Umar Akmal b Riaz 9/0/0/21/20
Yuvraj Singh b Riaz 0/0/0/1/0
*†M S Dhoni lbw b Riaz 25/0/2/42/64
S K Raina not out 36/0/3/39/67
Harbhajan Singh st Kamran Akmal b Ajmal/12/0/2/15/28
Z Khan c Kamran Akmal b Riaz 9/0/1/10/14
A Nehra run out 1/0/0/2/1
M M Patel not out 0/0/0/0/0
Extras (lb8 w8 nb2) 18
Total (for 9, 50 overs) 260
Fall 1-48, 2-116, 3-141, 4-141, 5-187, 6-205, 7-236, 8-256, 9-258.
Bowling Umar Gul 8-0-69-0, Abdul Razzaq 2-0-14-0, Wahab Riaz 10-0-46-5, Saeed Ajmal 10-0-44-2, Shahid Afridi 10-0-45-0, Mohammad Hafeez 10-0-34-1.
†Kamran Akmal c Yuvraj Singh b Khan 19/0/3/21/40
Mohammad Hafeez c Dhoni b Patel 43/0/7/59/65
Asad Shafiq b Yuvraj Singh 30/0/2/39/60
Younis Khan c Raina b Yuvraj Singh 13/0/0/32/40
Misbah-ul-Haq c Kohli b Khan 56/1/5/76/132
Umar Akmal b Harbhajan Singh 29/2/1/24/35
Abdul Razzaq b Patel 3/0/0/9/12
*Shahid Afridi c Sehwag b Harbhajan Singh 19/0/1/17/25
Wahab Riaz c Tendulkar b Nehra 8/0/1/14/15
Umar Gul lbw b Nehra 2/0/0/3/8
Saeed Ajmal not out 1/0/0/5/17
Extras (w8) 8
Total (49.5 overs) 231
Fall 1-44, 2-70, 3-103, 4-106, 5-142, 6-150, 7-184, 8-199, 9-208.
Bowling Z Khan 9.5-0-58-2, A Nehra 10-0-33-2, M M Patel 10-1-40-2, Harbhajan Singh 10-0-43-2, Yuvraj Singh 10-1-57-2.
Umpires I J Gould (Eng) and S J A Taufel (Aus).
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