Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Mohali: India kept their unbeaten World Cup record against Pakistan intact as they beat the arch rivals by 29 runs in the second semifinal here on Wednesday.

Earlier, Pakistan openers Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez looked in no trouble whatsoever as MS Dhoni chose to open the bowling with Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra to defend a competitive 260.

The Pakistani duo reached 44 runs in the ninth over and looked in no trouble whatsover. But just when the two openers relaxed, Zaheer skittled out the dangerous Kamran (19), who was caught at point by Yuvraj Singh.

Hafeez and Shafiq then buckled down in an attempt to play out a spell of tight overs by Indian bowlers, where Munaf, after bowling a maiden over, came back in the next over to remove a set Hafeez (43 off 59 balls) who played a loose shot off a wide delivery. The ball took an edge and went straight into Dhoni's gloves.

Youngster Shafiq and veteral Younis Khan then too the score past 100 and looked to stead Pakistan innings after Hafeez's wicket.

But Dhoni kept ringing changes and brought India's man of the World Cup Yuvraj Singh to bowl his left-armers.

Yuvraj began well to keep Pakistanis under control and then struck two decision blows. First, he castled Shafiq (30) and then in his next over lured Younis (13) into a drive that was nicely caught by a leaping Suresh Raina in the covers.

That brought Umar Akmal on the crease and the youngster's hit-all approach made the pitch look totally different.

He took on India's top wicket-taker Yuvraj and hit him for a couple of sixes during an innings that started taking a match-winning shape.

Dhoni got his boys together on the second drinks break and his midas touch once again did the trick, twice

First it was Harbhajan, who struck first ball after the break by ending Umar's threatening stay at the crease after he had made 29 off just 24 balls.

Munaf's perseverence with line and length too paid him as he removed the dangerous Abdul Razaaq (3) for his second wicket of the innings.

All this while, Misbah-ul-Haq was playing the most perplexing innings, eating up deliveries by blocking and blocking.

Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi then walked in with the hopes of Pakistan resting on his and Misbah's shoulders.

The seasoned duo took the score from 150/6 to 184/4 and for the first time in the World Cup, Afridi looked to be getting his act together.

The Pakistan captain reached 19 off 17 balls but then they say, old habits die hard. The 'Boom Boom' man hit a Harbhajan delivery straight up and the skier was taken comfortably by Sehwag. Afridi, the seventh Pakistani wicket, gone for 184.

Wahab Riaz (8) was in next and he was also the one to go next: dismissed for eight by Ashish Nehra as Sachin took the catch.

In the afternoon, Virender Sehwag got India off to a rampant start after MS Dhoni won the toss and chose to bat first.

Sehwag hit Umar Gul for five boundaries in the pacer's second over and also brought up his 1000 runs against Pakistan. Meanwhile, India raced to 50 in the fifth over of the innings.

But Afridi's decision to bring on left-armer Riaz into the attack brought immediate result as the quickie took out a dangerous Sehwag after the Indian opener had made a brisk 38 runs of 25 balls.

Sehwag immediately called for a review of Simon Taufel's decision, but it remained unsuccessful.

On the other end, Sachin Tendulkar looked pretty assured and took India to 73/1 in 10 overs, after which two deliveries stopped India's heart.

Tendulkar looked out for all money on an lbw appeal by off-spinner Saeed Ajmal but the master, after consulting Gautam Gambhir, took a review which turned out to be successful.

But off the very next ball, Kamran Akmal's smart glovework seemed to have caught Sachin out of his ground but once again the TV umpire gave it not out as Sachin seemed to have got his toe back just in the knick of time.

Thereafter, Sachin and Gambhir buckled down to bring up their 50-run partnership that helped India cross the 100-run mark.

Mohammad Hafeez was pressed into service by Afridi in the bowling powerplay where the Pakistani spinners pulled back Indian scoring giving away just 26 runs in overs 11-15.

After putting a lid on scoring, Hafeez drew Gambhir out of his crease to get him stumped and give Pakistan their second wicket. Gambhir made 27.

Gambhir's wicket was shortly followed by another life for Tendulkar, when Younis Khan dropped an easy chance at short cover off Afridi.

After that, Tendulkar's charmed life reached a 95th ODI fifty as Pakistan looked destined for a punishment from the master.

Riaz then came back for his second spell and immediately got reverse swing to put Indian batsmen on guard.

That actually accounted for Kohli (9) who was caught at backward point after being hurried by Riaz. In-form Yuvraj Singh came in next with all eyes on him to give Tendulkar company. But Riaz had a heartbreak planned for Indian fans as he castled Yuvraj (0) off the very next ball to jolt the Indian innings.

A scratchy Dhoni then accompanied Tendulkar as the two decided to buckle down to score in ones and twos.

Sachin, however, continued to live a charmped life with edges flying off his bat until one, at 85, flew straight to Shahid Afridi at short cover who didn't commit the same mistake his team had throughout the afternoon. Saeed Ajmal had finally got his man.

India now needed a partnership from its last recognised pair of MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina but it didn't happen as Wahab Riaz had other ideas in his final spell of the innings.

The left-armer returned in the last 10 overs and struck right away to take his fourth and the Indian innings' sixth wicket in the form of Dhoni, who scored an untidy 25 off 42 balls.

Thereafter, it was about how Raina can hold the tail together for a final flourish.

Raina and Harbhajan Singh chose to take the batting powerplay from overs 45 to 49 and began well taking 22 runs off the first two overs but the wily Ajmal drew his counterpart Harbhajan out of his crease to get him stumped after scoring 12.

At seven down, it was now about playing out the 50 overs, which India finally were able to do with a not-out innings of 36 off 39 balls from Raina.

But it wasn't before Riaz completed his five-wicket haul with the wicket of Zaheer Khan (9).

In the afternoon, the most awaited match of the 2011 World Cup got underway here in the northern Indian city of Mohali with a loud cheer receving the two captains for the toss that MS Dhoni won and decided to bat.

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