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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - India-Pakistan's high-voltage clash at 2011 World Cup semi-final

©REUTERS
 

March 30, 2011 - Billed as the 'final before the final' in both India and Pakistan, a win in this game meant that the fans on both sides of the border would be forgiving even if the trophy wasn't brought home; all they wanted was a win against the arch rivals.

Match Summary

India 260/9 (50 Overs)

Pakistan 231/10 (49.5 Overs)

Result - India won by 29 runs

Player of the Match - Sachin Tendulkar

Having just cleared a psychological barrier by beating Australia in the quarter-final, India were coming of wins against Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherland, South Africa, West Indies, and had tied the match against England. The win against Australia really put India in good stead as the Men in Blue hadn't beaten Australia in a World Cup since 1987.

Pakistan too, were looking good with victories over Kenya, Sri Lanka, Canada, Zimbabwe and Australia. They had lost only to New Zealand and had just beaten West Indies in the quarter-final.

The match was being played in Mohali with a capacity of just 28,000. Clearly, a Pakistan-India semi-final here had not been anticipated. With Prime Ministers of both countries attending the match, the significance of just another cricket match was elevated to a different level and tickets were as hard to procure as trying to push excess toothpaste that has jumped out of the tube.

Amid all the hysteria, Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni remained his calm self, “The hype created by the media? By the sponsors? We are not getting involved in it. I think of the pressure like I do of fast bowling,” Dhoni used a cheeky analogy. “Once it goes past 150 kmph you don’t notice whether he is bowling 155 or 160. The pressure won’t grow now, it will be static. You will end up in a pressure cooker.”

In the absence of Shoaib Akhtar, who was nursing an injury, Wahab Riaz rose to the occasion for Pakistan as he made a top-class display of quick swing bowling, bagging an invaluable five-wicket haul. Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal was also on point with figures of 10-44-2.

Sachin Tendulkar, who was just a hundred away from his 100th hundred was dropped four times and ended up being India's top scorer with 85. But, a target of 261, was easily chaseable on a slow but good batting surface at Mohali.

However, once home to batting greats like Inzamam-ul-Haq and Saeed Anwar, Pakistan no longer had the batting prowess to get the better of the constant pressure applied by the Indian bowlers. So, once Pakistan's top three Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Hafeez and Asad Shafiq threw it away after getting good starts, there was not much depth in the line-up to keep going.

What was even stranger was the manner in which Misbah-ul-Haq, one of their three most experienced batsmen - the other two being Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi, went about his business. His 56 off 76 balls at a strike rate of 73.68 may not give the full picture, but at points in the game, it looked as if Misbah was in a Test match and was looking to bide time through a tough session.

All the five bowlers employed by India - Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra - shared the wickets equally. By the time India won by 29 runs in the last over, the result had become inevitable.

"When we finally won the game, we could see thousands of fans waving the Tricolour in any direction we looked. It was hard to imagine I was going to play the World Cup final in Mumbai in front of my home crowd. We were slowly writing a national fairy tale," recalls Sachin Tendulkar, the Man of the Match for his 85-run knock in the semi-final.

Sachin's 100th hundred was not be, but India kept their unbeaten record against Pakistan in World Cups intact and booked their ticket to the all important final against Sri Lanka.

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