India’s Yuvraj Singh said his team came through “immense” pressure to depose 12-year reigning champion Australia in yesterday’s Cricket World Cup quarterfinal and set up a meeting with archrival Pakistan in the last four.
Yuvraj and Suresh Raina clinched a five-wicket victory with an unbeaten stand of 74 as the hosts reached 261-5 in Ahmedabad, India. Australia, winner of the past three World Cups, had totaled 260-6, led by 104 from captain Ricky Ponting in 118 balls.
India had looked wobbly at 187-5 before the final pair steadied the innings to win with 14 balls of the 50 overs to spare. As well as scoring 57, Yuvraj also took two wickets to pick up a fourth man-of-the-match award in this World Cup.
“The pressure today was immense, playing Australia, it was something else,” Yuvraj said at the post-match ceremony. “When (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni got out, I knew we still had Raina to come, and thought if we can add 40-odd runs it would be good and we can take the game till the end. We held our nerve and won the match.”
It was a second straight defeat for Australia, whose 34-game unbeaten World Cup run was ended by Pakistan in the last group game.
“We competed hard, no doubt about that,” said Ponting, who was aiming to be a three-time World Cup-winning captain. “260, with that wicket, I thought was a reasonable total. It’s disappointing to be bowing out now, we’re probably a better team than we showed. We played a reasonable game today but not good enough.”
Sachin Tendulkar, though failing to clinch a 100th international century, laid the foundation for victory with 53, and Gautam Gambhir added 50.
Brad Haddin, with 53, was Australia’s second-highest scorer after Ponting won the toss. The captain held the innings together as wickets fell and was out when he tried a reverse sweep and was caught by Zaheer Khan off Ravichandran Ashwin at 245-6.
It was Ponting’s first international century in over a year. Speculation has surrounded his future after Australia’s loss against England in the Ashes Test series. Earlier this week the 36-year-old denied a report that he planned to quit international cricket after the World Cup.
He reiterated that yesterday, saying “it’s a bit premature to say it was the end of an era for Australian cricket, it was a pretty good game tonight.”
India lost its first wicket on 44, Virender Sehwag caught by Michael Hussey off Shane Watson.
Tendulkar was the next to fall, ending his hopes of clinching the landmark score. He was caught by wicketkeeper Haddin off Shaun Tait. Tendulkar had begun walking off when umpire Ian Gould called him back while the incident was viewed on video replay.
Even after his departure India appeared to be gaining momentum, only for Virat Kohli to be caught by Michael Clarke off David Hussey’s full toss at 143-3. Then, amid a misunderstanding with Yuvraj, Gambhir finally got himself run out after surviving two close shaves.
“I told Gautam ‘I am not Virender Sehwag, I can’t run like that.’ Well, maybe it was my fault and I apologized to him,” Yuvraj said.
The pressure increased on India as captain Dhoni was out for 7, caught by Clarke off Brett Lee with the score on 187-5. A 27-run spree off two overs then sent the match in India’s direction again as Yuvraj imposed himself on the game, supported by Raina, to see their team to victory. Raina made 34.
Pakistan defeated West Indies by 10 wickets in the first quarterfinal two days ago.
India, which won the World Cup in 1983, will play Pakistan at Mohali, India, on March 30. New Zealand plays South Africa in the third quarterfinal at Dhaka today and the winner will play Sri Lanka or England in the other semifinal in Colombo on March 29.
The final of the World Cup, co-hosted by India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, is in Mumbai on April 2.