India beat Pakistan to advance to the finals of the 2011 World Cup

A cricket match between arch-rivals India and Pakistan is always nerve wracking. When these two giants lock horn with each other, the game is more than just cricket with enormous emotions and feelings attached to it.

It was the hair raising semi-final game between of 2011 World Cup when India and Pakistan met each other in a One-Day International (ODI) game after a very long time. India were favourites going into this tournament and the pressure of playing at home was gargantuan. It was not another sunny day at Mohali, as fans across the globe gathered here to watch the two giants in action.

Skipper MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat first on a surface which looked conducive for batting. Indian openers Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag walked out to bat carrying immense hopes on their shoulders and the onus of getting the team to a good start.

Sehwag went blitzkrieg and took on the Pakistani bowlers right from the outset. Young Wahab Riaz made the headlines as he steamed in and bowled with menacing pace only to dismantle the Indian line up with a fifer.  He first started with the wicket of Sehwag when his outswinger left the maverick batsman bewildered and later got the better of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Zaheer Khan.

The scariest moment of the match came when India’s man in form Yuvraj walked out to bat when the hosts were precariously placed at 141 for three inside 26 overs. Riaz bowled a beautiful inswinger to Yuvraj which ripped through his defence and shattered the timber on the very first ball which he faced. India were in all sorts of trouble at this moment as Yuvraj had bailed his team out on many occasions in the tournament and a lot of team’s success depended on his shoulders.

Tendulkar stood tall amid all the crisis and kept sailing the Indian ship, though he was lucky as Pakistani fielders gave him enough reprieve to score big. Eventually, Saeed Ajmal got the better of him as Shahid Afridi finally grabbed one at short covers. According to reports, Tendulkar had remained sleepless for nights before this most anticipated encounter and was just one ton short of his 100th international century. But unfortunately, he fell short of 15 runs from scripting history in this iconic game. Suresh Raina scored some priceless runs lower down the order and ensured a fighting total for the team as India posted a modest total of 260 runs in their 50 overs.

A target of 261 did not look much of a challenge for the established Pakistani line up but their ability to soak in the high pressure and knack of floundering while chasing took a heavy toll on them. Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal started off on a brisk note as Pakistan got off to an ideal start with 44 runs inside 9 overs. India were in a desperate need of a wicket and their most trusted bowler Zaheer Khan delivered! Akmal failed to pick the slower one that landed safely in the hands of Yuvraj at point.

Yuvraj by this time had made it a habit of contributing in some way or the other. He may have failed with the bat but the local boy scalped two important wickets with the ball to get India back into the game. Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra kept picking wickets at regular intervals as the game drifting away from Pakistan’s court.

In the end, the wicket of explosive batsman Afridi calmed down the nerves in the Indian dug out as India were on the brink of a glorious victory. Though Misbah-ul-Haq fired later on in his innings but it was in a lost cause. Finally, Misbah fumbled and Kohli took the winning catch at long on only to get the party started at Mohali. What followed next was India’s final encounter against Sri Lanka at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The memories of this game will be preserved for generations as India pulled off a stunner to reserve a berth in the finals. Tendulkar was awarded the Man-of-the-Match trophy but the little master won’t be as pleased as he would have been if it were a clean knock.

Brief Scores:

India 260 for 9 in 50 overs (Sachin Tendulkar 85, Virender Sehwag 38, Suresh Raina 36*; Wahab Riaz 5-46) beat Pakistan 231 all out in 49.5 overs (Misbah-ul-Haq 56, Mohammad Hafeez 43; Ashish Nehra 2-33, Munaf Patel 2-40, Harbhajan Singh 2-43)  by 29 runs.

(Suraj Choudhari, an avid cricket follower who plays the sport at club level, is a staffer with Criclife)