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ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 – India vs Pakistan Semi-Final
Without taking anything away from India’s inspired performance last night, was there more to the World Cup semi-final than meets the eye?
The match between the arch rivals was full of surprises and thrills and just as the experts predicted the team that kept their nerve ended up booking a date with Sri Lanka. But the manner in which Pakistan closed and batted thoughtlessly later makes it surprising that perhaps our neighbors were not so keen to win the game after all.
The major difference in temperament between the two teams in the run-up to the match was that while India wanted to win the match and the World Cup, Pakistan emerged as only interested in beating India. This was evident from the statements of the two captains as well as anyone who was asked a question about the game.
But from the moment the match started in Mohali Pakistan looked strange to lose the match. Their fielding, dropping Sachin Tendulkar 4 times, looked as if they wanted India to score 350 plus runs and then lose the chase ‘graciously’. This was not unlikely considering the fashion in which Virender Sehwag hammered Umar Gul over but then in the 260 it proved too much for the Men in Green.
In a rare display of tenacity it was the Indian bowling that managed to save the day. Keeping the tension in mind many big names started to feel the heat but strangely as it sounds a lot the quarters who were not expected to achieve much made all the difference. Banning Sehwag and Suresh Raina most of India’s batting line-up deviated from their natural game and likewise Wahab Riaz and Ajmal led Pakistan’s attack in place of Gul and Afridi.
Regardless of how the pitch behaved 260 is never a big total in a post-T20 world and a lot depended on India’s bowling.
MS Dhoni, who later admitted that he misread the pitch, could have used R Ashwin much like the unproven weapon against Pakistan just as they released Riaz and Ajmal, who created a lot of trouble for Tendulkar. Keeping the basics in mind the Indian bowling was tight and the fact that the first extra was conceded over number 37 speaks volumes. Munaf Patel and Zaheer Khan, assisted by Ashish Nehra, provided excellent support to the slower Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh. India’s fielding was also much better than Pakistan and turned the tide but there is a lot that can be improved. Sri Lanka’s fielding has always been rated a few notches above India and if India want to win the final images of Harbhajan refusing to chase some, Zaheer not running enough in the deep to catch the ball which fell a few steps from ‘before him and Nehra the poaching of Afridi’s catch should not be repeated.
But still nothing can explain how Pakistan went about their hunt. At 70 for 1 the start was pretty good but why were Younis Khan and Misbah-Ul-Haq acting as if this was a test match? The goof-up with the batting power play and Shahid Afridi stepping in for 7 down suggested that something was fishy. Had Hafeez Saeed and Umar Akmal given consistent support from Khan, Misbah and Afridi they could have easily sailed through but Wednesday may have been India’s day and India’s night.
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