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India emerged victorious in the battle of the giants, defeating Australia by 5 wickets in the quarter-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad. Batting first, Australia made their way to 260/6 on the back of a fantastic century by skipper Ricky Ponting, playing in what will most likely be his final World Cup match. The score was par for the course, and India chased it down with a little more than 2 overs to spare courtesy half-centuries from Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and easily the player of the tournament, Yuvraj Singh, who took India home with an unbeaten 57 in addition to picking up two vital wickets. India now run into arch-rivals Pakistan at Mohali in what promises to be the mother of all semi-finals.
Australia won the toss and predictably decided to bat first on the dry wicket of Motera. The summer had announced its arrival in recent matches and had sent temperatures rising to around 40 degrees. The 22 yards in the centre were expected to play an important role and had two vastly contrasting ends with a bit of dry grass rolled in at one and bare patches to support the spinners at the other. Australian captain Ricky Ponting mentioned a score of about 250 to be a good total to defend but with the Indian batting line up they would remain in danger with whatever they put on board. The Indian batting line up was strengthened with Virender Sehwag recovering from his knee injury, but young left-hander Suresh Raina kept his place in the team at the expense of the hard-hitting Yusuf Pathan. Australia resorted David Hussey to the middle-order to strengthen their batting and give themselves an extra off-spinning option with Steve Smith making way.
Australia started the same way they have been doing all tournament, being cautious with the new ball and not giving their wickets away. Indian captain MS Dhoni showed confidence in Ravichandran Ashwin giving him the new ball. Zaheer Khan maintained a good line and length at the other end and kept things tight. Brad Haddin broke the shackles, coming down the track and hitting Ashwin for a six. But still the runs were hard to come by. Ashwin gave India the vital breakthrough getting through Watson to knock back his off stump off the last ball of the mandatory powerplay overs to leave Australia at 40/1.
Ricky Ponting came to the middle desperately looking for some runs, but it was Brad Haddin who did the bulk of the early scoring in their partnership. The bowling powerplay brought bowling changes and Haddin didn't allow Munaf Patel to settle in, hitting him for three boundaries in an over. Runs were starting to flow as Haddin was taking the bowlers on. The bowling powerplay produced 30 runs and the run rate climbed closer to 5 an over. Ponting started finding his timing and took Yuvraj Singh for 10 runs in one of his early overs to put the pressure right on the hosts with their fourth and fifth bowlers under the cosh. Haddin meanwhile got to a half century for the fourth time in the World Cup and the partnership started to look dangerous. But Dhoni continued to show faith in Yuvraj Singh, who has been his go to guy this tournament, and the left-arm spinnner responded with the wickets of Haddin (53) and Michael Clarke (8). The former went for an ambitious cover drive, but failed to clear Suresh Raina at cover, while the latter completely mistimed a sweep and top edged all the way out to wide long-on.
India continued to be on top in the middle overs and Zaheer Khan came back with the old ball just before it was due to be changed and knocked over Mike Hussey for 3. Cameron White didn't look too comfortable out there either during his brief stint and was stuck at one end. On the other hand Ponting reached his first half century of the tournament and had picked the perfect occasion to find his touch. White's stay was ended by another slower one from Zaheer leaving Australia in a spot of bother at 190/5.
With 8 overs and a bit still to play, Australia needed to really get a move on and took the batting powerplay as soon as David Hussey had got his eye in. They made the most of the opportunity with Hussey finding the fence consistently and Ponting rotating the strike as he approached the three figure mark. The pair added 44 runs in the 5 over period between the 43rd and 48th overs with Hussey racing on to 34 from 23 balls, while Ponting brought up his first century in 18 one-day internationals with a single off R Ashwin. It was the Aussie skipper's 30th ODI ton and 6th against India. It wasn't the prettiest of tons, but it was an exceptional effort by an under pressure Ponting at a time when his team really needed him to scrap it out in the middle.
Ponting got out in the 49th over attempting a rare reverse sweep falling for 104 off 118 deliveries. The over from Ashwin conceded just 4 and like Zaheer Khan, he too finished with 2 wickets from his 10 overs at just over 5 an over. Harbhajan started the final over poorly, giving away 5 wides first up but followed with some better deliveries as Australia finished at 260/6.
The Australians would have been satisfied with their effort first up, scoring 75 runs in the last ten overs on what was a slow turning track. India's bowling analyses made interesting reading with Munaf Patel bowling just the 7 overs after having been taken to the cleaners and his overs being completed by Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli who conceded just 15 in 3 overs between them. Harbhajan Singh was once again expensive - after having conceded just 21 from his first 7 overs, Bhajji gave away 29 in his final 3. Yuvraj Singh was easily the pick of the Indian bowlers picking up 2-44 from his 10 overs.
Sehwag was back at the top of the order and Brett Lee managed to end Sehwag's streak of hitting a boundary off the first ball of the innings. But Sehwag was not to be contained for long as he opened his account with a flashy drive through the off side in the first over itself. The excitement in the first over grew as Ponting reviewed a caught behind decision but was turned down due to lack of visible evidence to indicate that Sehwag had indeed got an edge. Sachin Tendulkar started in emphatic fashion smashing a boundary off the first ball he faced up the other end. The Indians continued to get runs and Sachin was looking in fine touch already. Tait was taken out of the attack after bowling his usual 2 overs, while Lee was replaced by Watson after he had bowled three. Sehwag wasn't given much in his half of the pitch and was kept quiet with some short stuff.
Sachin continued to strike boundaries but Watson hurried onto Sehwag with a short ball and the batsman fell for 15, top edging it to give Australia their first wicket. Despite the loss of Sehwag's wicket, India had scored 50 runs in the mandatory powerplay and were right where they would have wanted to be. Tendulkar reached 18,000 ODI runs in the midst of it all and Gautam Gambhir got into his groove after a tentative start by doing what he does best, rotate the strike. The match was getting away from Australia as India closed in on a hundred, but Tait found the edge of Sachin's bat to give them some relief. The legendary batsman fell for 53, and the match was once again in the balance.
Virat Kohli joined Gambhir in the middle and shared in a handy partnership of 49 to ensure that India remained in the ascendancy. The Aussie spinners tried to stem the run flow and despite the run rate rising, the game looked very much India's to lose. In a 9-over window between the 29th and the 38th over, they appeared set to do so as 3 wickets fell for 44 runs to bring Australia right back into the contest.
Kohli was the first to go for 24, smashing an easy full toss straight to Clarke at short midwicket. Yuvraj Singh started with a boundary off his first ball and followed it with another in the next over. Gambhir meanwhile continued nudging the ball around and soon brought up his half century. Gambhir escaped a couple of close run out chances after mix ups between the two batsmen but a third mix-up in 5 balls gave Australia the prized wicket of Gambhir. Skipper Dhoni was in and one thing was assured then that Yuvraj and Dhoni would run better together. But Dhoni's poor run in the World Cup continued as he hit a short-wide delivery from Brett Lee straight to a diving Clarke at backward point and Australia were a wicket away from getting introduced to the tail.
At 187/5 in the 38th over the game was up for grabs and it was down to who wanted it more. India needed 74 runs from 75 balls, while Australia needed 5 wickets. It was down to Yuvraj Singh to take India home and he found an excellent ally in young Suresh Raina, whose inspired selection was made to look like a masterstroke. Yuvraj rose to the occasion and hit 2 boundaries off Lee as India got 14 runs off an over. Shaun Tait, who had sprayed the ball around all night, conceded 13 in the next over giving India some breathing room.
India were in the driver's seat with just 41 needed off 54 balls. It was just about holding their nerves now and both men in the middle did very well to play sensible cricket, working the ball into the gaps. India needed just 22 runs off the last 5 overs but it was now time for the dreaded batting powerplay, which had cost India a couple of wins already this World Cup. Ricky Ponting turned to Brett Lee to produce some magic. But it was Raina who made the ball disappear, hitting the first ball of the powerplay straight down the ground for 6. With 15 needed from 4 overs, Raina made got a boundary off the first ball of the next over too and the result was beyond doubt. Yuvraj hit the winning runs to bring the home fans to their feet and set up a scintillating semi-final showdown between India and Pakistan. Raina at the other end remained unbeaten on 34 from just 28 deliveries.
It was a disappointing World Cup exit for Ricky Ponting and his men, but Australia were never really going to win the tournament in these conditions without a Grade 1 spinner in their line-up. David Hussey bowled 5 overs for 19 and picked up the wicket, and Ponting perhaps missed a trick by not bringing him back for a second spell when the two left-handers were on strike at the end. However, the day belonged to India and to Yuvraj Singh in particular and the matter of fact left-hander who has now picked up 4 man of the match awards in the tournament will be excited to be heading home to Mohali where he will be keen to showcase his wares in front of a partisan Punjabi crowd.
Australia: Brad Haddin (wk), Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting (c), Michael Clarke, Cameron White, Michael Hussey, David Hussey, Jason Krejza, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait.
India: Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, R Ashwin, Munaf Patel.
Australia 260/6 in 50 overs (5.2 runs per over)
Ricky Ponting 104(118) R Ashwin 2-52
Brad Haddin 53(62) Yuvraj Singh 2-44
India 261/5 in 47.4 overs (5.47 runs per over)
Yuvraj Singh 57*(65) David Hussey 1-19
Sachin Tendulkar 53(68) Shane Watson 1-37
India won by 5 wickets with 14 balls to spare
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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