India totaled 260-9 in the semifinal in Mohali, Virender Sehwag making 38 and Wahab Riaz taking 5-46. Pakistan was all out for 231 in the last of its allotted 50 overs as the home team won by 29 runs. The final is in Tendulkar’s hometown of Mumbai in two days.
“I thought it was brilliant the way we bowled, and the way we fielded was fabulous,” man of the match Tendulkar told the post-match presentation. “Going back to Mumbai, especially for this event, is a wonderful occasion.”
Tendulkar, seeking to become the first man to hit 100 international centuries, led a charmed life yesterday amid error-strewn fielding. He was dropped four times, three of those off the bowling of Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi, who finally made up for his teammates’ errors by catching the “Little Master” off Saeed Ajmal.
“We played well in this whole competition,” Afridi said. “I’m proud I am the captain of these guys. I think they played better than us. Sorry to our nation. We tried our level best.”
India, batting first after winning the toss, had grabbed the initiative through Sehwag. He lashed the bowlers to all sides of the ground as India reached 39-0 in four overs, 21 of those runs coming off one over bowled by Umar Gul.
Sehwag’s explosive innings of 38 runs off 25 balls ended when he was trapped leg-before-wicket by Riaz with the score on 48.
Gautam Gambhir was stumped for 27 before Riaz inflicted a double blow in consecutive balls. First he had Virat Kohli caught, then he clean-bowled key batsman Yuvraj Singh with an inswinging yorker to leave the score on 141-4.
After Tendulkar left with the score on 187-5, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (25) was lbw to Riaz, Harbhajan Singh was stumped, and Riaz took his fifth wicket when Zaheer Khan was caught behind. Ashish Nehra was run out, and Suresh Raina ended on 36 not out.
Pakistan had a solid start, reaching 44 before Kamran Akmal, on 19, was caught by Yuvraj off Zaheer.
Then Mohammad Hafeez, who’d batted steadily for 43, flicked an easy catch to wicketkeeper Dhoni off Munaf Patel. Asad Shafiq went for 30, bowled by Yuvraj, who struck again two overs later when he had Younis Khan (13) caught by Raina. That left the score at 106-4.
Umar Akmal began to hit out and scored two sixes in his 29. He and Misbah ul-Haq added 36 for the fifth wicket before Akmal was bowled by Harbhajan Singh, and the game swung to India as the scoring rate slowed. Abdul Razzaq, a potential danger for India, was bowled by Munaf Patel for 3, and Afridi (19) then went for a big hit and was caught by Sehwag at 184-7, followed by Riaz, caught by Tendulkar off Nehra.
Umar Gul, who’d struggled when bowling, was lbw to Nehra for 2. Then Zaheer had Misbah (56) caught out to wrap up the victory as Pakistan paid the price for delaying a “power- play,” a phase that helps batsmen by restricting the placement of the fielding team.
“It’s a dream before the start of the tournament,” Dhoni said. “Throughout the tournament we didn’t have easy games, that’s the beauty of this game -- nothing comes easy. Overall we are quite ready for the final, but you have to be on your best on that day.”
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have each won the World Cup once, in 1983, 1992 and 1996, respectively.
“It was like a final today, because if India and Pakistan are playing the pressure is double,” Harbhajan said. “We bowled really well and fielded really well and deserved to win.”
India is favored in the final, according to U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc. It’s an 8-13 bet, meaning a successful $13 wager would bring in $8 plus the original stake. Hill is offering odds of 5-4 for Sri Lanka, which beat New Zealand earlier this week by 5 wickets to reach the final.
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