It did not possess the quality of 2003 at Centurion nor were there Ajay Jadeja like pyrotechnics of 1996, but for an India Pakistan clash, there was enough ebb and flow in the game to make the match memorable for the crowds in both the nations, who had put a full stop on their daily chores for a day. The crowds at Mohali, in fact, kept the spirit alive at times when the going wasn’t intense. And why not? After all, this was an Indo-Pak clash and it was the semi finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. At the end of the day, the best team won as Pakistan self-destructed and India, even though not at their best, did well enough to hold their nerves. Here’s a look back at key events in the game that eventually decided the fate of the Mohali battle.
Sehwag outsmarts Gul
Prior to the match, Umar Gul was Pakistan’s best bowler in the series. But, the occasion clearly got to him as he sprayed the ball all over the place and Virender Sehwag was all set to take advantage of the same. The Indian opener launched such a brutal attack on Gul that the latter leaked 21 runs in his second over to get India going. It was a big setback for Pakistan and the perfect start for India as Sehwag was all guns blazing. To the surprise of many, Shahid Afridi, who lost the toss, asked Abdul Razzaq to accompany Gul with the new ball, bowling his gentle medium pacers. Thankfully, Razzaq did not perform as badly as Gul, but the fact was that he did not trouble the Indians either and Sachin Tendulkar also began getting into the groove. Round one, without doubt, went to India.
Just when it seemed Sehwag would bat Pakistan out of the game, Wahab Riaz rose to the big occasion. There was plenty of pressure on the left-arm seamer considering calls from many quarters to bring back Shoaib Akhtar. However, Riaz proved that for a change, Pakistan got it absolutely right. It was Riaz who gave Pakistan the major breakthrough, trapping Sehwag right in front of the stumps, which was confirmed by the review taken by the batsman. Riaz had not only cut short Sehwag’s threatening knock, but also brought down the scoring rate, as it often happens with Sehwag’s dismissal. However, he wasn’t done yet. His best was yet to come. Riaz bowled some brilliant deliveries to send back Virat Kohli – beaten by a rising, pacy delivery and the very next ball the in-form Yuvraj Singh with a fast in-swinging delivery, to which even the left-hander had no answer. Thanks to those strikes Pakistan were not only back in the game, but on top of the Indians. Deservedly, Riaz came back to complete his five-wicket haul by dismissing M S Dhoni and Zaheer Khan in his final spell, again with some exceptional bowling and the batsmen weren’t good.
Sach(in) a lucky day!
Even as Riaz was making the right moves, something bizarre was transpiring in the field, which eventually cost Pakistan the match. Sachin Tendulkar, who went off the boil following Sehwag’s dismissal was dropped four times, three of them coming off their skipper Shahid Afridi’s bowling. All the three catches were dollies, and even the last one wasn’t all that tough by international standards, but probably can’t be considered as a chance taking the standards set by Pakistan into consideration. Eventually, the captain himself took the catch that led to the maestro’s dismissal and was expressive, showing his team how to do it. But, by that time Sachin had made 85 and, in hindsight, the difference as well. Apart from the fielders, Sachin also had the UDRS come to his rescue for a change. It is no secret that the Indians aren’t great fans of the system, but on a manic Wednesday, it was on India’s side as it overturned an lbw decision at a time when Sachin was only just beginning to settle in. Well, the reprieve did not last long as the very next ball, he was nearly stumped off Saeed Ajmal, who eventually got his scalp. Post those anxious moments, Sachin never looked comfortable, but for some inexplicable reason, the Pakistanis did not want to see the back of him, until they finally ran out of luck!
Raina’s crucial cameo
Two games and two valuable 30plus undefeated scores, both resulting in the team’s victory. M S Dhoni’s purpose of getting Suresh Raina in for Yusuf Pathan has worked wonders. On Wednesday, as the Indian lower order once again crumbled, this time to Riaz’s swinging deliveries, Raina was a picture of calm. A couple of boundaries were all he managed, but importantly ensured that India batted out 50 overs. And, how crucial that turned out to be…
Hafeez’s paddling blunder
Chasing 261, Pakistan got off to an impressive start with both Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal finding the boundaries at ease. And then Kamran fell, trying to go for his favourite cut shot that had got him his runs. But, Pakistan were still in command as they were off to a flyer. And then came the shocker. Hafeez, who had the Indian bowling at his mercy, got arrogant ala Aamir Sohail 1996 and trying to play a cheeky paddle sweep off Munaf Patel to give a simple caught behind chance to a relieved Dhoni. There was no pressure on Pakistan until that moment. But, Hafeez brought it upon them and the Indians ensured they stayed down their throat from that point onwards.
Harbhajan seals it
Post Hafeez’s exit, India were on top with wickets tumbling and Yuvraj getting into the act once again, scalping two big guns in Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq. However, the talented Umar Akmal counter-attacked ferociously and hit Yuvraj for a couple of magnificent sixes and some boundaries. For a brief while, Pakistan’s hopes were raised. After all this was an Indo-Pak game and the arch rivals weren’t going to give up easily. For India though, Harbhajan rose to the challenge and deliveries a fasting delivery from around the wicket that stayed a trifle low and beat Umar for pace. Perceptibly, it was the last nail in the coffin and when Misbah-ul-Haq tried to make amends for his slow scoring in the final overs, the horse had already bolted by then.