Under fire throughout the league stage, the Indian bowlers and fielders raised their game when it mattered most. In their first high-pressure game of the World Cup, the quarterfinal clash against Australia, Harbhajan Singh and Co put up a fighting fielding and bowling performance to make Australia work hard for each run.
India stuck to a more or less similar bowling game plan as in their last game against the West Indies. They relied heavily on spin and just shuffled the bowling order. Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan, R Ashwin, Munaf Patel and Yuvraj Singh were all heroes of the day on Thursday.
Losing the toss in a big game and being put in to field is always a big advantage for the opposition. The Indian bowlers neutralised it by sticking to their task. They kept the pressure on throughout and struck at regular intervals. Only a brilliant knock by Australia skipper Ricky Ponting prevented India from restricting the visitors to a below par total.
Ashwin gave a good account of himself again by bowling with the new ball and holding his own in powerplays. Harbhajan was not incisive but effective, while Zaheer was as usual brilliant with the old ball. Part-timer Yuvraj did more than what was asked of him, being the pick of the bowlers with figures of 10-0-44-2.
The left-arm spinner first picked up the wicket of Brad Haddin. It was a crucial breakthrough as, at that stage, Haddin was well set and had just completed his half-century. He added the scalp of the in-form Michael Clarke to keep Australia in check. Hits and misses
But, the most heartening aspect was India’s fielding. They threw themselves at everything and gave nothing away. The Australians were made to run hard for every single while only the best boundary hits were allowed to pass through. If Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj were electric in the inner ring, Harbhajan and Ashwin manned the boundary well.
In fact, it was Harbhajan who set the tone with a full stretch dive after sprinting to deny Shane Watson a certain boundary. The Indians easily saved 15-20 runs and that, in the end, proved the difference.