India Vs Pakistan Semi Final : The Mother of All Matches Concludes
” Its the mother of all matches.” – Ravi Shastri screamed into the microphone when India beat Australia in Ahmedabad to join Pakistan in the semi-finals of the ICC World Cup 2011. He most definitely could not have been more accurate in describing it. There has been so much history between the two teams and well, this semifinal lived up to the hype. Before the match, it felt like it was the inform Pakistan bowling attack vs the Great Indian Batting Order, and The Inconsistent and Weak Indian Bowling versus The Mediocre Pakistan Batting line up. But, on the day , the Indian bowling rose up like a phoenix and suffocated the Pakistani batsmen. The other important factor in determining the outcome was fielding, with Indian fielders on fire, while the Pakistani players failed to take catches and struggled in the field.
After Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and decided to bat, God ( read SRT) and Sehwag got India off to a flier. The third over by Umar Gul went for 21 runs with five boundaries in it, made Sehwag s intentions very clear. The pace he was going at , 300 looked very much possible, maybe even a massive total of 350. A bowl in the 6th over by Wahab Riaz changed all that. Sehwag walked across the stumps , and was caught plumb in front of the wicket. Gambhir and SRT were steady and got India to a decent start with above a 100 on the board in 17 overs. Gambhir was then stumped of a Hafeez off spinner when he needlessly wandered down the track . Wahab RIaz then picked up two in two balls at the midway stage of the Indian innings , with Kohli playing a careless shot to gully, and Yuvraj, one of the stars for India in the present WC getting the bowl of the day from Riaz. India were now under pressure, and needed Dhoni and SRT to build a partnership, which they couldnt. SRT finally fell on 86 , when Afridi held on to a catch.
Sachin Tendulkar‘ s Innings
Well, to be frank, he wasnt his usual confident free flowing self , with a lot of tentative shot play. Maybe that was because of how the pitch was befaving, but what matters is he played on. And for that he has half the Pakistani team to thank for. He was dropped on no less than 4 occassions, on27, 45, 70 and 81. It seemed as though he was going to bring up his 100th international century with one of his least convincing innings. Sachin would not have wanted that . There were many jokes flying around, one being that Sachin will walk off when he is dropped the next time. Misbah dropped him at midwicket on 23; it wasnt a simple chance but in such matches, such catches should be taken. Younis Khan than dropped a simple one, straight to him at cover. Kamran Akmal’s wicket keeping has been ” talked ” about a lot this WC, and looking at his standards , he wasnt going to take the chance he got again off Afridi s bowling. The simplest chance went to his brother Umar poff Hafeez s bowling which even Munaf Patel would have taken . Highly disappointing fielding today by the Pakistanis.
Two balls which I remember from the match were the last two balls of the 11th over. On the fifth bowl, a review saved him . A friend s status on facebook reads, ” When God says he s not out, then HE’S NOT OUT.” True. :) On the next bowl was a huge stumping appeal which brought the third umpire into play , and SRT was safe once again. Two close calls . Whew. When SRT was finally caught by Afridi, the Pakistanis were a relieved lot. India still had a lot to do. True, SRT was not what he usually is, but he stuck to the crease and made a man of the match winning 86 on a pitch where none of the batsmen except maybe Sehwag looked fluent.
Raina joined Dhoni in the middle, and the two were buliding a steady partnership until a very scratchy Dhoni became Riaz’ s fourth wicket. All was up to Raina now, and deliver he did. A very steady and well paced innings of 36 from 39 balls with help from the tailenders took India to a not-so-bad total of 260.
Riaz with 5 wickets for 46 was the pick of the bowlers with all the spinners doing a decent job. Umar Gul was a shadow of himself going for 69 in 8 ours.
261 in 50 was the target for the Pakistanis, match on!
Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez got to a steady start with the first 24 runs coming in only boundaries. They were going strong till Kamran played a Zaheer Khan loosener straight into Yuvraj s hands at point, the first wicket falling at 48. hafeez was closing in on his half century when he played a very stupid shot, after amazing pressure from Munaf to get out . The match was balanced, and Pakistan, if they had to win, needed a partnership, which , well, never came. Shafique made a cool 30 but, was then tried to cut Yuvraj on a quicker delivery and lost his middle stump. The Indian bowlers, took wickets at regular intervals and choked the Pakistan batsmen. We saw brilliant pace bowling from Munaf and Nehra( who clearly was seeking redemption after the South Africa fiasco). Harbhajan was at his best, containing the batsmen well, and taking the all important wickets of Umar Akmal, who was looking dangerous with the bat having hit two awesome sixes off Yuvraj, and Shahid Afridi, just when he was turning the heat on. The wicket of Shahid Afridi was the nail in the coffin for Pakistan, and inspite of some late fireworks from Misbah, victory didnt seem likely. 37 were needed of the final two overs, and 30 off the last one. Misbah tried too hit them out of the park, but couldnt and got out off the penultimate ball of the innings, with India through to the final of the world cup. The fielding by India was outstanding, and the bowling was very disciplined, a rare sight. India gave away no extras till the 37th over, and only 8 extras overall, 5 of them coming due to a very wide Zaheer delivery which went for a 4. All 5 bowlers used by Dhoni bowled their full quota ( another rare sight) and each picked up 2 wickets.
All in all, finally the Indian bowling and fielding came good when required, securing a place in the finals in Mumbai on 2nd April. The last match of the world cup between the two hosts, the two favorites to win the world cup , and two equally strong teams, with two legends in each team, Sachin Tendulkar and Muttiah Muralitharan. It is what the script demanded, it is what the subcontinent wanted and it will be a cracker in Mumbai. Australia in the quarters, arch rivals in the semis and now against the co-favorites in the finals? Murali won it in 1996, is it Sachin;’s turn now in 2011 in his hometown, Mumbai? There can’t be a better time, place or opportunity.
Wait and watch.