Yuvraj Singh was India’s hero yet again as the hosts ended Australia’s 12-year-reign as World Cup champions with a five-wicket quarter-final victory.
The left-hander’s unbeaten 57 - his fourth fifty of a tournament where he is averaging over 100 - saw his team home with 14 balls to spare after they were wobbling at 187 for five. The win set up a dream semi-final against arch-rivals Pakistan in Mohali on March 30.
“I don’t know about hitting any purple patch,” said Yuvraj. “But the pressure against Australia was different. I have gone through a tough year, but coming into the World Cup, getting that 50 against England, it was good.”
Earlier, Australia captain Ricky Ponting scored his first international century in over a year in a total of 260 for six. But the effort was not enough to maintain his team’s bid for an unprecedented fourth straight World Cup title and fifth in all.
With India needing 54 to win off the final 10 overs, Yuvraj eased fraying home nerves and was well-supported by Suresh Raina. The pair added 74 for an unbroken sixth-wicket partnership.
Ponting was previously involved in a controversial incident which could have seen Gautam Gambhir out for nought when he dived forward at square-leg for a possible catch before suggesting he was uncertain as to whether the ball had carried. The umpires referred the decision but replays showed the ball bouncing well in front of Ponting.
When India came out to bat, opener Sachin Tendulkar looked in sublime touch.
But Australia denied him his 100th international hundred when he was caught behind off Tait for a fluent 53 during which he became the first batsman to score 18,000 One-Day International (ODI) runs.
Gambhir and Virat Kohli batted steadily in a stand of 49 before Kohli (24) slapped a full toss from part-time spinner David Hussey straight to Michael Clarke at short mid-wicket.
Earlier, Ponting’s 104 was his first ODI hundred since he made 106 against the West Indies in Brisbane last year.
Ponting, who had managed just 102 runs at 20.4 in five previous innings of this World Cup, had come into the match amid reports he could be quitting international cricket completely after the World Cup.
Nevertheless the 36-year-old demonstrated his enduring class in a 118-ball innings featuring a six and seven fours and also denied the reports after the match.
He was out late on when he reverse-swept Ravichandran Ashwin straight to Zaheer Khan at short third man.
Clash against Pakistan
Meanwhile, India captain MS Dhoni was pleased after India handled the pressure to reach the semi-final.
“There was pressure, and it was about handling it,” said Dhoni. “Raina is technically better and we were keen on batting 50 overs. That’s why we went with Raina.”
The wicket-keeper is now looking forward to the last-four clash against Pakistan. “India versus Pakistan semi-finals - it doesn’t get any better. The pressure will be big, but in reality it makes absolutely no difference to us.”
Australia’s last five series results
Pakistan in Australia Australia 3-0
Australia in New Zealand Australia 2-0
Australia v Pakistan in England drawn 1-1
Australia in India India 2-0
The Ashes England 3-1
Australia in England England 3-2
Australia in India India 1-0
Sri Lanka in Australia Sri Lanka 2-1
England in Australia Australia 6-1
Australia v New Zealand Australia 1-0
Australia in New Zealand drawn 1-1
ICC World Twenty20 losing finalists
Australia v Pakistan in England Pakistan 2-0
Sri Lanka in Australia Sri Lanka 1-0
England in Australia drawn 1-1
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2011.
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