Yuvraj Singh celebrates after beating Australia during the quarter-final match of The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 between India and Australia at The Sardar Patel Stadium, Motera in Ahmedabad. India beat Australia by five wickets.
It was not a place for the faint-hearted. A sea of people heading towards the stadium and erupting in waves of ecstasy inside it to celebrate each high point achieved by India against the fiercely competitive Australians - it was a test of nerves and character for the players.
The contest wasn't of the highest quality, but as intense as it could get. Keeping Australia in check for a major part of the chase and then letting them back into the game in a few moments of madness, India needed someone with a heart of steel. Continuing his glorious World Cup campaign with a brave half-century, Yuvraj Singh kept alive a billion dreams with an emphatic statement of intent.
In reply to a not-so-intimidating 260, the Indians appeared to be cruising at one stage only to look wobbly on too many occasions for the comfort of the capacity turnout. After reaching a strong position thanks to the second and third wicket partnerships, a couple of soft dismissals almost evened things out before Yuvraj and Suresh Raina countered fire with fire to knock the three-time defending champions out of the competition.
It looked far too difficult than it eventually was at 187 for five in the 38th over when Mahendra Singh Dhoni fell to leave the packed house in total silence. Ricky Ponting's team had sniffed blood and looked set for launching a final assault. The skipper brought back his frontline fast bowlers and then Yuvraj rose to the occasion in a manner very few can, given the enormity of the situation.
Yuvraj anchors show
The first ball he faced was dismissed for four and what followed was an exhibition of resolute batting under pressure. Yuvraj didn't go for unwarranted gallantry, though. He was playing sensibly, running with caution and hitting the ones in his zone with characteristic flamboyance. Fittingly, the winning boundary came from his blazing bat -- a robust cover drive off Brett Lee.
Raina played a significant hand too, taking the pressure off Yuvraj with some neat placements on both sides of the wicket, and when the situation permitted, he was not afraid to unleash the big shots. For a late inclusion in the 11, it was an effort laced with grit. Equally important to the outcome were the half-centuries by Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir, which helped India overshadow an outstanding century by Ricky Ponting.
For a team which won the last three World Cups, it was an inglorious exit. Australia were in it for quite some time, but their inability to up the ante in the middle overs — when they were batting — proved vital in the end. India did a splendid job while fielding.
It looked at a point that the effort put in while fielding was going in vain before Yuvraj prevailed.
After an important spell with the ball, he rose to the occasion when it mattered to shepherd India into the semi-finals and set up a date with Pakistan.