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Spirited India oust SA to reach T20 semis

India will now meet Australia, while New Zealand meet Pak on Saturday, reports Amol Karhadkar.

cricket Updated: Sep 26, 2007 18:45 IST
Amol Karhadkar

Many people in the stands just looked at each other, unsure of how to react. Here and there, there were scenes of jubilation, as Durban's huge group of Indian-origin people cheered on a country most barely identified with, except at festival time, through Bollywood, cricket and the food.

For many others though, it was a confusing win. Most wanted both India and South Africa to get through, and as one placard stated, 'South Africa, please get 126'. For, towards the end of this game, as a young, shining India rocked towards an improbable win in Kingsmead, a ground where they had played eight other international games, lost six and won none till Thursday, everyone knew the target of 154 would be too much for South Africa. All they wanted was for the Proteas to get to 126 and ensure that they went through to the last four, past the waiting Kiwis, on a better Net Run Rate.

<b1>But, as Graeme Smith later stated self-deprecatingly, South Africa seem to have a way of messing up crucial big encounters and they did exactly that, ending their innings at 116-9 and losing by 37 runs.

From the beginning of the tournament, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been talking about the need for the bowling and batting departments to click together. And when it was mattered most - irrespective of the margin of victory, India had to win the match to make the semis - both did. After young Rohit Sharma, catapulted into the hot seat, and Dhoni ensured that India registered what would prove a fighting total of 153/5 under testing conditions for batting, the bowlers reduced South Africa to 31 for five in the sixth over to virtually seal the match for India.

It has been heartening for Indian fans and all those who wonder what after the Big Three, to see young Indian after young Indian stand up and be counted when it matters. In this case, both RPs, Rohit Padbanaban Sharma and Rudra Pratap Singh, came up with something special. After Sharma started scratchily and then blossomed when India batted, RP's double whammy at the start of the South African innings was a blow the Proteas never really recovered from. India now play Australia in the semis in Durban on Saturday, while New Zealand take on Pakistan in Cape Town earlier on the same day.