Comment: Indian Excellence Sets Up Dream Semi-Final
India answered a lot of searching questions during the course of their five-wicket win over Australia in their World Cup quarter-final in Ahmedabad. The majority of the 42,000 fans in the stadium went away happy with what they had seen and for the first time in 15 years, an Australian captain will not be lifting the World Cup trophy.
Going into the match, many questioned India's temperament - did they have what it takes to beat Australia in a match that really mattered in the latter stages of a competition? They proved they did thanks to an outstanding bowling, fielding and batting display.
Led by Yuvraj Singh's unbeaten 57 and brace of wickets, the only blemish was the mix-up which saw Gautam Gambhir run out; but Yuvraj made sure that he was there at the end to see the game through.
We also questioned whether India's batsmen could cope with the extreme pace offered by Australia's bowling attack - Shaun Tait, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson - but they dealt with the challenge admirably. And Sachin Tendulkar shone through once again, his half-century taking him past the mark of 18,000 One-Day International runs. It is surely inconceivable that anyone will ever score that many again.
A word for Ricky Ponting, who came into the game in no sort of form and under intense pressure - not something he has become unused to following the recent dip in his side's performances - only to produce a fine century.
Although he was able to deliver when his country needed it most, few of his colleagues, with the honourable exceptions of Brad Haddin and David Hussey, were also able to weigh in, resulting in Australia setting India a target that they always knew, provided they didn't lose wickets in the way they have been throughout the tournament, would be attainable.
Yuvraj, on the other hand, in and out of the side in the last 12 months, has come into form at just the right moment. He has now scored 341 runs in the tournament, with a century and four half-centuries to his name. He averages the small matter of 113.66 and has also taken 11 wickets at 24.63 including a maiden five-wicket haul against Ireland.
What we now have in store is the match-up that many cricket fans will have been dreaming of as India and Pakistan meet in what promises to be an unmissable semi-final in Mohali on 30th March.
Yuvraj has an excellent record against Pakistan and India have never lost a 50-over match in a World Cup against their arch-rivals. However, Pakistan showed how strong they were with a ruthless demolition job against the West Indies in the opening quarter-final having finished on top of a competitive Group A.
They do have recent history of beating India in Mohali and have already gone way further in the tournament than they did in both 2003 and 2007. Aiming for a repeat of 1992, when they won, and 1999 when they reached the final, they will need their own talisman - Shahid Afridi - to inspire them as Yuvray has been inspiring India thus far.
As far as predictions go - as Chetan Narula says during his latest Cricket World @ The World Cup podcast, it will come down to who handles the pressure and the situation the best on the day.
One thing is for sure - it is a game nobody can afford to miss.
© Cricket World 2011