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India deliver knock out punch to Oz, romp into semis

Ahmedabad: Title aspirants India knocked defending champions Australia out of the cricket World Cup with a thrilling five-wicket victory to set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash against arch rivals Pakistan here on Thursday.

After restricting Australia to 260 for 6, largely built around Ricky Ponting`s 104, the Indians held their nerves to overhaul the target with 14 balls to spare with Yuvraj Singh (57 not out), Sachin Tendulkar (53) and being the star batting performers.

In a cracker of a contest, fortune fluctuated from one team to the other before Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina (34 not out) tilted the balance in India`s favour with an unbeaten 74 run partnership to send a capacity crowd at the Sardar Patel stadium into a frenzy.

Barring a few lapses here and there, it was a clinical display by the Indians as they ended Australia`s reign as world champions and have given a huge boost to their campaign to regain the coveted trophy after a gap of 28 years.

Yuvraj Singh slammed Brett Lee to the boundary to bring about the dramatic victory as the Indian players and officals hugged each to celebrate the triumph amidst deafening cheers from nearly 43,000 spectators.

India will now travel to Mohali for the much anticipated semi-final match against bitter foes Australia.

Opting to bat first, Ponting notched up his 30th ODI century and his 5th in the World Cup to not only silence his detractors but also guide Australia to a decent total on a rather slow and turning track at the Sardar Patel stadium.

Apart from Ponting 118-ball 104, Brad Haddin (53) and David Hussey (38 not out) were the other notable performers for the defending champions. For the Indians, Yuvraj Singh (2/44), R Ashwin (2/52) and Zaheer Khan (2/53) were the wicket-takers.

The Indian innings began with a flourish as both Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag went on the offensive and unleashed a flurry of boundaries in the first five overs.

Speedster Shaun Tait came in for some harsh punishment as he repeatedly strayed in line and length and was promptly despatched to the boundary. He also bowled a few wides and no balls to compound the problems for Australia.

Sehwag, who was not in his destructive best, survived a caught behind appeal in the very first over off Brett Lee. The Australians asked for a review and the television replays suggested that there was no edge.

The duo put on 44 brisk runs for the opening wicket before Shane Watson provided the breakthrough by evicting Sehwag (15) who paid the price for playing a poor shot to a bouncing delivery.

Sehwag was cramped for room but he still went for the pull shot and top edged the ball for Michael Hussey to take a simple catch at square leg region.

The left-handed Gautam Gambhir, who joined the action after Sehwag`s dismissal, was quite content in playing second fiddle to Tendulkar who completed a mind-boggling 18,000 ODI runs when he reached 45.

Tendulkar was rather lucky to get a reprieve when his late cut landed just short of Jason Krejza who appeared to be a bit slow in coming forward. Lee was the unlucky bowler.

A few minutes later, Tendulkar unleashed a delectable flick towards the square-leg region for two runs to notch up his 94th ODI half century to get a thunderous applause from the capacity crowd.

Australian captain Ponting introduced his spinner Jason Krejza in the 18th over of the innings and the Indians immediately attacked him as his first over yielded 8 runs.

Just when they seemed to be cruising along comfortably, the Indians suffered a huge jolt when Tait got the prized scalp of Tendulkar with a superb ball.

Tendulkar nicked an outgoing delivery and Brad Haddin made no mistake behind the stumps, though the umpires had to check whether it was a no-ball before declaring him out.

Gambhir and Virat Kohli added 49 runs for the third wicket before Kohli perished to a rank bad shot. It was a full toss and he threw his bat wildly only to find the ball going straight to Michael Clarke at the mid wicket region.

Gambhir, who survived a couple of run out attempts, returned to the pavilion trying to steal a suicidal run to leave India at a tricky 168 for four. His knock of 50 came off 64 balls and contained two boundaries.

The hosts plunged into more trouble when captain Dhoni also fell to Lee who came back for his second spell.

Dhoni went for a cut but could not control the shot and Clarke took a smart catch at point to leave the crowd in shock.

Earlier, Ponting stole the thunder as he showed tremendous character and resilience to make a mark in such a crucial game. He held the innings together and was dismissed in the 49th over as the Aussies lost wickets at periodic intervals.

The Aussies, realising that the wicket was not conducive for strokeplay, curbed their stroke-making insticts to a large extent and were quite content in working for their runs on the slow and dry track.

Spinner Ramachandran Ashwin opened the bowling for India and produced a tidy first over by giving away just three runs while paceman Zaheer Khan gave one run in his first over.

Watson played the first aggressive shot of the innings by slog-sweeping Ashwin to the mid-wicket boundary and then cracked another boundary off Zaheer`s next over.

Both the Aussie openers Watson and Haddin played cautiously in the intial stages before opening to play some big shots. Haddin lifted Ashwin for a six over wide long on to to try and break the shackles.

Harbhajan introduced into the attack in the 9th over in place of Ashwin, who was brought in from the other end for Zaheer Khan.

The move paid dividends immediately as Ashwin drew first blood by evicting the dangerous Watson (25) with a superb delivery.

Watson went for the slog sweep to a tossed up ball but missed the line completely to see his stumps being dislodged much to the delight of the Indians.

With runs coming slowly, the Aussies chose to attack Munaf Patel as his first over yielded 13 runs, Haddin picking him up for special treatment clobbering him for three boundaries.

Haddin and Ponting, who has not been among the runs in the ongoing World Cup, consolidated the position for the team as they took the score beyond the 100-mark without losing any more wickets.

Haddin, who looked quite comfortable in the middle, notched up his 15th ODI half century by slamming Munaf to the boundary.

But Haddin returned to the pavilion soon after with Yuvraj Singh providing the break through with Suresh Raina pulling off a brilliant diving catch. Haddin tried to go for the cover drive to a turning ball but failed to time it properly.

Desperate to get a wicket, Dhoni also turned to Sachin Tendulkar who bowled his leg spinners. The last time Tendulkar bowled in an ODI was in Guwahati in November 2009.

Yuvraj came to the rescue of his team again by getting rid of Michael Clarke (8), who paid the price for a poor shot as he top-edged his slog-sweep and Zaheer latched on to a well judged catch in the mid-wicket region.

Zaheer, who returned for his second spell in the 31st over, dismissed Michael Hussey with a gem of slow ball which knocked down the stumps to leave Australia in a spot of bother at 150 for four.

Cameron White, who was not too comfortable in the initial stage of his innings, survived a confident appeal for caught behind off Ashwin.

Umpire Marais Erasmus was unmoved even as the entire stadium went up in appeal for the catch. White went for the sweep and appeared to get it off the glove for Dhoni to take a catch behind the wicket. India went for the review, and it showed that the ball came off the forearm.

But White did not survive for long as he fell soon with Zaheer accounting for his dismissal, taking a smart return catch off a slower delivery.

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