India vanquish Pakistan by 29 runs

Mohali, Mar 30 (PTI) India vanquished Pakistan here on Wednesday night to storm into the final of the cricket World Cup in a high-voltage match watched by the Prime Ministers of the two countries and millions of passionate fans across the sub-continent.

The 29-run victory, which enabled India to maintain its unbeaten record against the arch rivals in 36 years of World Cup history, was the result of some brilliant bowling and fielding show by the home side after its much-vaunted batting line-up had posted a modest 260 for nine to which man-of-the match Sachin Tendulkar made a lucky 85-run contribution.

India now meet Sri Lanka in the final in Mumbai on Saturday in a bid to win the coveted Cup for the second time since it first stunned the cricketing world by beating West Indies in 1983 at the Lords.

Batting first after winning the toss, India was restricted to 260 for nine largely due to brilliant bowling by fast medium bowler Wahab Riaz who took 5 for 46.

Given an even chance to overhaul this total, Pakistani batting crumbled before some brilliant bowling by three Indian seamers — Ashish Nehra (2/33), Zaheer Khan (2/58) and Munaf Patel (2/40) as well as two spinners Harbhajan Singh (2/43) and Yuvraj Singh (2/57).

Pakistan were all out for 231 runs in 49.5 overs to leave India deserved winners before a boisterous crowd that included power personalities such as Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, union ministers, glamour from Bollywood besides Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani who were present when the final ball was bowled.

Zaheer Khan took the last wicket of Misbah-ul Haq to send a capacity crowd at the PCA stadium into a frenzy.

The jubilant Indian team members hugged each other nd took the stumps as souvenirs and the support staff at the dressing room also broke into celebration to cherish the moment of triumph which brought hopes of India regaining the coveted trophy after a gap of 28 years.

Tendulkar turned out to be India`s batting hero though he got as many as six `lives` during his innings. However, he could not make the most of the Pakistani fielding lapses as he missed his 100th international ton.

Virender Sehwag (38) and Suresh Raina (36 not out) were the other notable scorers as many of the Indian batsmen got the starts but could not translate them into big knocks.

For Pakistan, pacer Wahab Riaz was the pick of the bowlers with a career best 5/46, eclipsing his previous best of 3/22 against Bangladesh in Dhaka in 2008.

The Indians then came up with a disciplined bowling show and some brilliant fielding to choke the Pakistanis who got a good start but lost their way in the middle overs.

Misbah-ul Haq (56) Mohammad Hafeez (43), Asad Shafiq (30) and Umar Akmal (29) were the notable scorers.

The two Pakistani openers Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal gave a decent start to the run chase and chose to attack pace spearhead Zaheer Khan who gave away 16 runs in his first two overs.

The openers put on 44 runs for the first wicket before Zaheer provided the breakthrough by scalping Akmal with a slower delivery. Kamran went for the cut and Yuvraj Singh held on to a smart catch at point.

Harbhajan Singh was introduced into the attack in the 11th over and the off-spinner immediately got some turn in his very first over. But, in the subsequent overs, he was able to make impression.

Hafeez (43), who was shaping for a long innings, got out to a horrendous shot to give India the second wicket and send the capacity crowd into a frenzy. He attempted a strange paddle sweep like stroke off Munaf Patel and edged the ball to Dhoni behind the stumps.

After Hafeez`s dismissal, the run rate dropped down quite a bit as Younis Khan could not force the pace of scoring and that allowed the Indians to apply more pressure.

Yuvraj, who has been having a dream run with both the bat and ball in the tournament, then got into the act by evicting Asad Shafiq (30). Shafiq went for a cut but the ball skidded through to knock down his middle stump to leave the visitors at 103 for three.

Yuvraj then scalped the prized wicket of Younis (13 off 32 balls) with a good length ball inviting the batsman to drive. Younis could not time his shot properly and spooned a catch to Raina.

With the required run rate continuing to mount, Umar Akmal, who came to the crease after Younis` dismissal, went after Yuvraj clobbering him for a four and six in one over and later lifting him over the bowler`s head for a mighty six.

Harbhajan cut short Akmal`s belligerence in the very first ball after the drinks break by dislodging his stumps to pick up his first wicket. Munaf then accounted for Abdul Razzaq with a gem of a delivery to tilt the game in India`s favour.

Earlier, electing to bat, the Indian innings began with a flourish as Virender Sehwag unleashed a flurry of strokes against the Pakistan pacers, picking up Umar Gul for special treatment by clobbering him for five boundaries in his second over.

The Delhi dasher slammed the third ball of the innings to the cover boundary to complete 1000 runs against Pakistan in his 29th match, thus becoming the fifth Indian batsman to achieve the milestone.

Sehwag`s belligerence was shortlived as Wahab Riaz, who was introduced in place of Abdul Razzaq, struck in his very first over by trapping him leg before. His breezy 38 came off just 25 balls and contained nine boundaries.

Tendulkar, who was having a charmed life, was dropped for the fourth time by Umar Akmal at wide midwicket as the champion batsman attempted to pull the ball. It was Hafeez who was the unfortunate bowler.

But in the very next over, the maestro finally ran out of luck with spinner Ajmal getting the prized scalp and captain Afridi holding the catch.

He went for a stinging drive but could not really time the ball well and Afridi, unlike his teammates, did not make a mistake at short extra cover. His knock of 85 came off 115 balls and was laced with 11 boundaries.

Dhoni, who was dropped by wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal on 24, could not capitalise on the reprieve as he became Riaz`s fourth wicket, trapped leg before to a sharp incoming ball.

Dhoni went for the referral but without any luck.

Sehwag attempted to flick the ball to an incoming ball and was rapped on the pads. The Indians asked for a review of umpire Simon Taufel`s decision and television replays showed that the ball would have indeed hit the middle stump.

After Sehwag`s dismissal, Tendulkar took upon himself the responsibility of scoring the runs quickly and an exquisite glance of Gul to the fine leg region stood out.

Tendulkar then produced another stunning shot off Riaz as he crouched on one knee and played the square drive to the point boundary, in the process completing 400 runs in the World Cup for the third time.

With runs coming easily, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi introduced spinner Saeed Ajmal in the ninth over of the contest and the off-spinner conceded just three runs.

There was a lot of drama in Ajmal`s third over as Tendulkar survived two appeals of consecutive deliveries.

Umpire Ian Gould first upheld a leg before wicket appeal against Tendulkar who asked for a review. Television replays showed that the ball would have missed the leg stump and the decision was overturned.

The very next ball, the Pakistanis appealed for a stumping chance and again the verdict went in Tendulkar`s favour, drawing thunderous cheers from the crowd.

A few minutes later, Tendulkar got a reprieve when he was on 28 as a diving Misbah-ul Haq dropped a catch at the mid-wicket region with Shahid Afridi being the unlucky bowler.

Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir put on 68 runs for the second wicket in 13 overs before Mohammad Hafeez stuck for his team by evicting the left-hander with a lovely flighted delivery.

Gambhir stepped out to drive the ball through the gap but was deceived by the flight and Kamran Akmal whipped off the bails in a flash to leave India on 116 for two.

The Pakistanis gave Tendulkar another `life` when he was on 45 with Younis Khan dropping a catch at the extra cover region with Afridi being the unlucky bowler again.

Virat Kohli, who joined the action after Gambhir`s departure, never looked comfortable in the middle and Wahab Riaz brought an end to his vigil soon. Kohli played a strange shot and offered a simple catch to Umar Akmal at backward point.

A hushed silence descended at the stadium when local boy Yuvraj Singh was dismissed for a first ball duck, leaving India in a spot of bother at 141 for four.

Tendulkar and Dhoni then tried to steady the innings by curbing their strokeplay and playing cautiously. They were quite content to keep the scoreboard moving with gentle pushes and nudges while dispatching the loose deliveries to the boundary.