Riaz dazzles as Pakistan restrict India to 260

Wahab Riaz of Pakistan took career-best of 5-46

By Jamie Alter

 

Mohali: Mar 30, 2011

 

Two men stood tall for India and Pakistan in the cauldron of the most anticipated semi-final ever. Relieved twice by the third umpire on 23 and dropped on 27, 45, 70 and 81 Sachin Tendulkar lived a charmed life until he was finally dismissed for 85. Wahab Riaz, persisted with ahead of Shoaib Akhtar, dented India’s charge repeatedly with wicked reverse-swing in a career-best five for 46.

 

At the end of 50 quixotic overs in front of a packed house, India were left to reflect on a disappointing total while Pakistan will feel decidedly chuffed about their chances given how India raced out of the blocks.

 

Virender Sehwag set the tone early when he drove the third ball he faced for four, and five boundaries off Umar Gul’s third over was ample evidence that circumspection would have little role to play in his approach. Gul’s horror start ended with Sehwag tonking him for two more fours to leave the bowler nursing figures of 33 from three overs – 32 to Sehwag – but Riaz delivered the balm when he trapped Sehwag lbw for 38 off 25 balls.

 

Tendulkar cut and drove Riaz for fours, but then shifted tones when spin came on. With the pitch affording the slow bowlers some drift, Tendulkar was in all sorts of trouble. Immediately his drives and flicks lost flourish as spin pulled matters back for Pakistan, with Tendulkar dropped four times.

 

He first survived a loud lbw appeal that was referred and overturned, and the very next ball was nearly stumped when Kamran Akmal collected a doosra and whipped off the bails. A push into the covers allowed Tendulkar to collect his nerves, but in the next over he was dropped at mid-wicket when he pulled a low catch to Misbah-ul-Haq.

 

Taking his time to get a good idea about the conditions, Gautam Gambhir played some pretty strokes in his 27, but he too could not convert his start. Moments after Mohammad Hafeez lured Gambhir out of his crease, Tendulkar was spilled by Younis Khan at cover. Shahid Afridi looked on ruefully, while Tendulkar hung his head and retook guard.

 

A lofted cover drive brought him fifty and Tendulkar looked a relieved man. The flashy drives were missing, the aggressive punches nowhere to be seen, but the quick running between the wickets and deft touches were very much in evidence. Afridi was steered to third man and Gul was glanced to fine-leg.

 

Seeking a breakthrough, Afridi called on his best bowler. Two wickets followed almost immediately, as Riaz got Virat Kohli to steer to point and splayed Yuvraj Singh’s stumps first ball with a nasty inswinger. The elation made way for more frustration as Kamran Akmal dropped a thick outside edge and Umar Akmal muffed a chance at mid-on. Eventually Afridi held a catch at short cover and Tendulkar was one his way.

 

The Indian innings got a bit shaky at this stage. Mahendra Singh Dhoni picked up a couple plucky boundaries before Riaz took him out, and Harbhajan Singh was stumped off Saeed Ajmal for 12. Suresh Raina found a willing partner in Zaheer Khan to stop the rot, and this pair manipulated the total to a healthy 260, though not the level that India would have had in mind at the outset. When Gul returned in the batting Powerplay Raina picked his full deliveries for delicious boundaries. Gul’s deplorable outing was capped with Raina twirling his final delivery to four to give Pakistan’s spearhead an economy rate of 8.62. Forty-three runs came in the batting Powerplay before Zaheer became Riaz’s fifth victim.

 

Brief Scores: India 260 for 9 in 50 overs (Sachin Tendulkar 85, Virender Sehwag 38, Suresh Raina 36*; Wahab Riaz 5 for 46, Saeed Ajmal 2 for 44, Mohammad Hafeez 1 for 34) vs Pakistan.

 

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine. His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now. His twitter feed is @jamie_alter)

 

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