In what was billed 'the mother of all clashes', India scrapped past old-rivals Pakistan in a see-saw semi-final encounter and will face Sri Lanka in the finals of the Cricket World Cup 2011.
At the end of it all, one can reflect on a scrappy, but evenly-contested final which was won by the more composed team. India's veteran Sachin Tendulkar scored 85 vitals runs after being dropped four times and was named man of the match while Pakistan's young pacer Wahab Riaz's five-wicket haul went in vain.
India struggled, dragged and managed to set Pakistan a target of 261, which was regarded as short by around 20 runs. However, Pakistan could have further restricted their target if not for some slopiness in the field possibly wilting under the immense pressure that came with the game. Four dropped catches on Tendulkar when he was at 27, 45, 70 and 81 proved costly while Indian skipper MS Dhoni survived a caught-behind when Pakistan keeper Kamran Akmal failed to hold on to a flick. Sehwag (38) and Raina's (36) runs proved priceless not to mention Tendulkar's unusually ugly knock of 85 which gave India a defendable total of 260.
Pakistan got off to a good start in their chase when Akmal found the fence through the covers in Zaheer Khan's very first delivery. With Hafeez looking solid at the other end, it seemed India would be left to rue their batting collapse, especially if Dhoni's decision to drop R Ashwin for the much maligned Ashish Nehra, in a pitch which offered spin, didn't work out.
However, India displayed much more solidity in their fielding and that ultimately proved to be the difference. Restricted to a run-rate of just about five, Pakistan trudged to 44 when Zaheer Khan dismissed Akmal (19). Mohammed Hafeez fell next when he gifted a wicket to Patel after a poor shot saw Dhoni grasp the easiest of catches. Yuvraj Singh, who surprisingly was dismissed for a duck, made ammends with two wickets in two overs, sending back Ashad Shafiq (30) and Younis Khan (13).
The scoreboard read 106-4 and Pakistan were in desperate need of a partnership. Umar Akmal, Kamran's brother, came on and threatened to take the game away from India after blasting two sixes off Yuvraj. However, Dhoni called on Harbhajan Singh who came around the wicket to rattle the stumps deeming Akmal (29) to the long walk back.
From thereon, it was a matter of time before India took the wickets. When Shahid Afridi was caught off Harbhajan, Misbah-Ul-Haq, playing an uninspired innings, was the only out-and-out batsman remaining. Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul both fell to Nehra making a definite victory all the more certain as the required run-rate gallopped.
It was left to Misbah to preside over the chase and as the only batsmsan remaining, it was a task he found too difficult to handle. He was the last-man out after Virat Kohli caught him long when he skied Zaheer Khan. It ensured India a place in the final, but Sri Lanka will be aware of the chinks in India's armor. Pakistan, on the other hand, will go home but Afridi can hold his head high for his and his team's performance.
After choosing to bat, India got off to a flier, all thanks to Virender Sehwag who smashed an out-of-sorts Umar Gul through the covers within three deliveries into the game. Sehwag went on miff Gul all over the park, and on one occasion found the fence 5 times in an over. However, the runs which were coming in plenty dried a bit when Sehwag was given lbw and the review proved unsuccesful.
Tendulkar could have won a lottery on the day, after survivng a total of six chances. He was given lbw when he was at 23 before the decision was reversed. In the very next ball, he was stumped but managed to survive thanks to television replays. He then went on to be dropped on four occasions before ultimately falling at 85.
Gautham Gambhir (27), Virat Kohli (9), Yuvraj (0) and Dhoni (25) all fell before Raina (36*) and Harbhajan (12) steered India to 260.
The final will be played at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium on 2 April.