The battle of all battles lived up to its top billing. This was the blockbuster India-Pakistan semi-final that everyone had anticipated - in many ways the final before the final in the ICC World Cup.
India beat Pakistan - World cup Semi Finals
At the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Wednesday, over 28,000 watched the action from the edge of their seats while millions followed the action on television and radio. The bare-knuckled slugfest eventually saw India pack off Pakistan by 29 runs and charge into the summit clash in Mumbai, where they will face Sri Lanka on Saturday.
The drama, passion and inyour-face brand of cricket made it almost sad that one side had to bow out but ultimately, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's straightforward gameplan and insistence on taking it as just a cricket match and not a political occasion took India to their third World Cup final. Sadly for his counterpart Shahid Afridi, despite playing superb cricket so far, his team failed to come good against India.
India batted first and scored 260 for nine with Sachin Tendulkar scoring a lucky yet adroit 85, missing his 100th international century, and the bowlers then hunted in packs, something never seen in the tournament till Wednesday, as Pakistan were bowled out for 231.
With Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his Pakistan counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani at the venue, all eyes were on the 22 players and the quality of cricket justified the billing the match got.
At the end, when Virat Kohli caught Misbah ul-Haq off Zaheer Khan to wrap up the Pak innings, India were able to maintain their unblemished record of never losing to Pakistan in a World Cup match.
Pakistan's chase never got off the ground. Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal put on 44 for the first wicket in nine overs but all the Indian bowlers kept the batsmen in check. It was only a matter of time that someone blinked and it was Kamran, who was deceived by a Zaheer slower ball, caught by Yuvraj at point.
Hafeez played some delectable shots but his attempt to paddle-scoop Munaf Patel, who was bowling consistently close to 140 kmph on Wednesday night, was
easily caught by keeper Dhoni as he departed for 43.
The lack of boundaries started to take its toll. Attempting to target the least-recognised bowler of the side - Yuvraj Singh - Pakistan lost the plot. First, youngster Asad Shafiq missed a straight delivery and then Younis Khan checkdrove the left-arm spinner to Suresh Raina at covers.
The escalating required rate meant that all the bowlers needed was to bowl straight. Umar Akmal smote a six and a four to end the 77-ball boundary drought but Harbhajan Singh ensured that the 29-run knock was just a flash in the pan, knocking back his off-stump.
Misbah kept the chase on track with a sensible 56 as they required 62 off the last six overs. In the end, despite his heroics, it was a bridge too far.
Earlier, Dhoni called right and India chose to bat first. The decent pace and bounce in the wicket was enough for left-arm pacer Wahab Riaz to come into his own as he restricted India to 260 for nine and walked away with five wickets for 46 runs, his best effort in ODIs.
India began in the fifth gear with Virender Sehwag tearing into pace spearhead Umar Gul as only he can, dispatching the Pakistan speedster for five boundaries in the third over of the match. An on-drive and upper cut in Gul's next over took India's score to 47 for no loss after just five overs.
Afridi then called Riaz and he struck right away, catching Sehwag on the crease and trapping him leg before. The opener was sent back for 38 off 25 balls.
Tendulkar was batting without much hassle but the introduction of Saeed Ajmal tied him in knots.
But it was one of the most lucky and scrappy innings played by Tendulkar for some time. Every time he gave a chance, a Pakistani fielder found a way to prolong his stay. The maestro was dropped thrice more - on 45, 70 and 81.
At the other end, Gambhir was cut open by Mohammad Hafeez, as he was drawn forward and stumped by Kamran for 27. India were 116 for two in the 19th over. He added 64 for the second wicket with Tendulkar.
Riaz then came back to change the flow of the innings. Skipper Dhoni, under pressure to score, was trapped leg before by Riaz, for a 42-ball 25. But Suresh
Raina (36 not out off 39 balls) made sure that India batted out the overs.
Source - indiatoday