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India win cliffhanger, enter finals

Marauding Yuvraj, stingy bowlers help India put it past Oz to enter the WC final, reports Amol Karhadkar.

cricket Updated: Sep 26, 2007 18:44 IST
Amol Karhadkar

The stage is set for something that has happened only once before — an India-Pakistan final in a high-profile cricket tournament other than a triangular. Pakistan had already thrashed New Zealand in the first semifinal of the World Twenty20 earlier in the day. It was India's turn now. And they did it in style — beating mighty Australia by 15 runs — to set up a grand finale against their arch-rivals in Johannesburg on Monday.

It wasn't an easy task for the Men in Blue, though. They had to overcome the world champion team of both forms of the game. And to put pressure on them, India needed a big total on the board after electing to bat first. They did just that by setting Australia a mammoth target of 189 to win at Kingsmead on Saturday.

The favourites crumbled under the pressure of the total. Needing 30 runs off the last three overs, they could garner just 14 to concede a 15-run defeat. Credit should be given, therefore, to the three Indian bowlers who bowled the last three overs - Harbhajan Singh, Rudra Pratap Singh and Joginder Sharma. They gave away only three, five and six runs, respectively, and took three wickets to overshadow the knocks of Matthew Hayden (62 off 47) and Andrew Symonds (43 off 26).

No prizes for guessing who the star of the Indian innings was — Yuvraj Singh. The southpaw, after hitting six sixes in an over and recording the fastest 50 in international cricket against England on Wednesday, had missed the crucial South Africa game on Thursday due to tendonitis in his left elbow. However, from the moment he occupied the crease after Gautam Gambhir fell on the last ball of the eighth over, till he returned to the pavilion in the 18th over, he looked to be carrying on from where he had left on Wednesday.

He blasted 70 runs off just 30 balls and hit five boundaries and as many sixes. He also equalled the record for the second-fastest 50 in international T20s when he reached the landmark in 20 balls.

His first scoring stroke — a six over square leg off Stuart Clark, the bowler of the tournament so far — in the ninth over, was just the promo. The concerto proper was about to start. In the next over, he flicked Brett Lee over square leg for a massive six. The ball travelled a distance of 119 metres, making it the longest six of the tournament till that point. The stroke was hit so well that it illustrated Yuvraj's natural hitting abilities.

Yuvraj needed someone who could rotate the strike at the other end. He found the right foil in Robin Uthappa. But Yuvraj's onslaught was such that it overshadowed Uthappa's three sixes - two over mid-wicket and one over long off.

The duo added 84 runs off just 39 balls. The third-wicket stand rectified a slow start to the Indian innings when Virender Sehwag, who pulled a hamstring in the first over and batted with a runner, and Gambhir failed to give India a cracking beginning.

The duo never looked like being able to break the shackles and could garner just 41 runs in eight overs till both departed.