Australia's remarkable 12-year reign as world champions was brought to an abrupt end to the sheer delight of the home nation yesterday, and there was nothing Ricky Ponting could do about it. Australia's captain, his tenure seemingly on its last legs, produced one of his gutsiest innings, a century assembled out of sheer bloody mindedness, to give his side hope of a place in the last four, but he lacked support and India's much-vaunted batting line-up delivered to earn them a semi-final against Pakistan.
Ponting's innings, his 30th one-day international century (and quite probably his last), took Australia to a challenging 260, but India bat a long way down and after Sachin Tendulkar had taken his tally of ODI runs beyond 18,000, some lusty hitting from Yuvraj Singh sparked wild celebrations across the 48,000 crowd. It sets up a fevered build-up to Wednesday's semi-final in Mohali. "It doesn't really get better than an India v Pakistan semi-final in the subcontinent," said MS Dhoni, India's captain.
The defeat may signal the end of Ponting's career. There have been calls back home for him to be relieved of the captaincy. He said: "It's disappointing that we are bowing out now – we are probably the better team than we showed to tell the truth. We played a reasonable game today but not good enough. Full credit to India the way they played and good luck to them.
"260 was a reasonable total but the bowling wasn't what we needed today. With 15 overs to go it was really touch and go but Yuvraj and [Suresh] Raina played well, we needed to get into their tail and we were unable to do that."
Batting first, Ponting and Brad Haddin, with a briskly assembled stand of 70, ensured Australia's total exceeded their captain's expectations despite India using seven bowlers, including Tendulkar who last rolled his bowling arm back in 2009 against the same opponents.
Yuvraj underlined his worth as a part-time bowler by dismissing Haddin and Michael Clarke, and Mike Hussey's stay was cut short by Zaheer Khan but his brother David walloped 38 from 26 balls to give the innings some late impetus. Ponting's fall, reverse sweeping, was not in keeping with a carefully constructed innings of 104 from 118 balls that contained only seven fours and a six. It was not his best innings and he was far from at his fluid peak but for sheer determination he has produced few better in this form of the game.
In contrast, Tendulkar was his usual smooth self and seemed cruising to his 100th international century but the otherwise erratic Shaun Tait managed to induce an edge that sailed into Haddin's gloves and a deathly silence descended on the crowd. Gautam Gambhir had just reached his 24th fifty when he ran himself out after an almighty mix-up with Yuvraj, having survived two such comical communication breakdowns immediately before the dismissal.
Yuvraj, however, kept his cool and ushered India to victory, sharing a stand of 74 with Raina. "Beating the three-time world champions is special but the semi-final will be even more special," Yuvraj added.
Sardar Patel Stadium (one day): World Cup quarter-final: India beat Australia by five wickets; Australia won toss
S R Watson b Ashwin 25/0/5/38/38
†B J Haddin c Raina b Yuvraj Singh 53/1/6/62/93
*R T Ponting c Khan b Ashwin 104/1/7/118/170
M J Clarke c Khan b Yuvraj Singh 8/0/0/19/28
M E K Hussey b Khan 3/0/0/9/12
C L White c & b Khan 12/0/0/22/32
D J Hussey not out 38/1/3/26/41
M G Johnson not out 6/0/0/6/5
Extras (lb2 w9) 11
Total (for 6, 50 overs) 260
Fall 1-40, 2-110, 3-140, 4-150, 5-190, 6-245.
Did not bat J J Krejza, B Lee, S W Tait.
Bowling R Ashwin 10-0-52-2, Z Khan 10-0-53-2, Harbhajan Singh 10-0-50-0, M M Patel 7-0-44-0, Yuvraj Singh 10-0-44-2, S R Tendulkar 2-0-9-0, V Kohli 1-0-6-0.
V Sehwag c M E K Hussey b Watson 15/0/2/22/45
S R Tendulkar c Haddin b Tait 53/0/7/68/102
G Gambhir run out 50/0/2/64/114
V Kohli c Clarke b D J Hussey 24/0/1/33/35
Yuvraj Singh not out 57/0/8/65/87
*†M S Dhoni c Clarke b Lee 7/0/1/8/18
S K Raina not out 34/1/2/28/47
Extras (lb3 w16 nb2) 21
Total (for 5, 47.4 overs) 261
Fall 1-44, 2-94, 3-143, 4-168, 5-187.
Did not bat Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, Z Khan, M M Patel.
Bowling B Lee 8.4-1-45-1, S W Tait 7-0-52-1, M G Johnson 8-0-41-0, S R Watson 7-0-37-1, J J Krejza 9-0-45-0, M J Clarke 3-0-19-0, D J Hussey 5-0-19-1.
Umpires M Erasmus (SA) and I J Gould (Eng).
Quarter-finals Today: New Zealand v South Africa (Mirpur); Tomorrow: Sri Lanka v England (Colombo).
Semi-finals Tuesday 29 March: TBC v TBC (Colombo); Wednesday 30 March: India v Pakistan (Mohali)
Saturday 2 April World Cup final (Mumbai).