INDIA went into the World Cup semi-final against Pakistan depending on its batting. Pakistan, on the other hand, was banking on its bowling. On the day, things came out in reverse.
For the first time since 1983, the final of the World Cup cricket tournament will be contested by non-white teams. In 1983, India met the West Indies and registered a famous victory; on April 2, India will take on Sri Lanka, both teams bidding for a second win in the tournament, Sri Lanka having won in 1996.
After getting off to a flying start – Indian opener Virender Sehwag took 21 off the third over of the match, bowled by Umar Gul, a medium-pacer who has been one of the Pakistan’s star performers in the tournament – India did not exactly sparkle. Despite reaching 114 for one off the first 18 overs, India finished with 260.
Gul fared poorly on the day, giving away 69 runs off eight overs, the occasion probably getting to him.
The only Pakistani bowler to give away less than four runs per over was off-spinner Mohammed Hafeez who went for 34 in his 10 overs. Wahab Riaz took the wickets, five of them, but gave away 46 runs in his quota of overs. But India made life difficult for themselves; scoring ws not unduly difficult but no batsman could dominate apart from Sehwag.
India had an anchorman in veteran Sachin Tendulkar who made 85 after being dropped four times. Many of the other batsmen got starts but did not go on. Young Suresh Raina made an unbeaten 36 as the innings fell away, ending with 260.
After a start when the run-rate was around 9 during the first five overs, with Sehwag in a ferocious mood, it was a middling effort at best. Had Pakistan held their catches, India would probably have struggled to reach 200.
When Pakistan began the chase, things seemed to be on track until Asad Shafiq fell for 30 at 103. He was the third man to go and the scoring rate was, at that stage, on par. But after that there was nobody to keep Misbah-ul-Haq company.
Pakistan had no decent anchorman – Misbah made a painful 56 but did not hang around long enough and, more importantly, could not lift his scoring rate. Pakistan’s best batsman, Younis Khan, made only 13. And the two who could have scored faster when the asking rate increased – captain Shahid Afridi and youngest Umar Akmal – fell for 19 and 29 respectively. On the day, a quick 50 or 60 was called for from either of them.
Surprisingly, India’s bowling and fielding was disciplined. Ashish Nehra, coming back into the team to replace young offie Ravichandran Ashwin, was the pick with two for 33 off his quota of 10 overs.
And though Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh went for nearly six an over, each took two wickets.
If India wins the tournament, it will be the first time that a host has won at home. If Sri Lanka triumphs, it will be the country’s second win as host, but neither would have come at home. Sri Lanka defeated Australia in the 1996 final which was held in Lahore; India’s win in 1983 over the West Indies was at Lord’s.