India did not play to its potential, yet could win their crucial quarter-final match against defending champs Australia comfortably. Thanks to Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina combine steered India to storm into semis. The five wicket win with an over to spare should help them to take on their traditional sub-continent rivals, Pakistan in Semis at Mohali next week.
Chasing the total set by Australia of 261 for a win, India’s dashing dynamo Virendra Sehwag, never looked comfortable and was not in his usual self. But, his partner and ‘master blaster’ Sachin Tendulkar could become the first batsman in the world to reach 18,000 runs. He scored 53 off 68 balls, and got out soon after accomplishing the new World record, caught behind off Shaun Tait. Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli took the score from 94 for 2 to 143 before a rush of blood saw the latter play a David Hussey full toss into the hands of Michael Clarke, having scored 24 easy runs off 33 balls. Silly running saw Gautam Gambhir being run out on the third chance in four balls, for a well-made 50 off 64 balls.
Indian skipper MS Dhoni failed yet again scoring just 7 runs off 8 balls, caught by Michael Clarke off Brett Lee at point. Earlier, at the score of 44, Virender Sehwag was caught by Michael Hussey for 15 runs off 22 balls, going for a pull off a Shane Watson bouncer.
Ricky Ponting produced the perfect captain’s knock with a belligerent 104 to answer his critics and help defending champion Australia to 260-6. It might be enough to give the under-fire Ponting the right to choose his destiny as captain, but may not be enough to save Australia. Ponting shepherded the innings with his 30th ODI hundred after Brad Haddin (53) put on 40 for the first wicket with Shane Watson (25) and 70 for the second with his skipper.
Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin took the first and last wickets, while Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh each took two as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, playing his 100th ODI as India captain, rotated seven bowlers in a bid to unsettle the Australian batsmen. David Hussey, recalled at the expense of young all-rounder Steve Smith in the only change to the Australian team which lost its last match to Pakistan, contributed a valuable 38 off 26 balls at the end.
It was a necessarily cautious innings from the Australians after the four-time champions were dismissed for 176 at the weekend against Pakistan in their last league encounter, costing them top place in the group. It was Australia’s lowest total at the World Cup since 1992 and contributed to the end of its 34-match unbeaten streak at the marquee limited-overs tournament.
Finally ‘Men in Blue’ played well under pressure though gave some anxious moments to their supporters in the galleries as well those millions watching in their drawing rooms. Indian skipper Dhoni deserves a compliment as he took the right decision when he had to choose between Raina and Yousuf Pathan. Though Pathan is great striker and a useful unorthodox bowler, but Raina’s choice at the end, proved right as he was instrumental in building useful partnership to help India cruise towards the victory post.