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India stun SA to enter Champions Trophy final

India's modest 261 proved insurmountable for the South Africans as they fell short by 10 runs in the ICC Cup.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2002 00:35 IST

It was a thriller to beat all thrillers. South Africa were comfortably placed at 192 for one with more than 20 overs to go. The target- just 262. And India won by 10 runs.

Sounds unbelievable? But that's what happened in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy at the Premadasa Stadium on Wednesday night. South Africa, from their strong position, made a complete mess of the chase.

India, who got the whiff of an opportunity when century-maker Herschelle Gibbs retired hurt, just barged through the door and made their way to the final. Gibbs had done all the work and when he reached 116, he decided to leave the field as he was beset by cramps.

He probably felt that the nine remaining batsmen would have no problem in notching up the 70 required. But Harbhajan Singh struck with two wickets in one over. Yuvraj Singh plucked two catches out of thin air.

Zaheer Khan bowled his heart out with his stinging yorkers. And Virender Sehwag bowled a tremendous spell in the slog overs to pick up three wickets.

The Proteas did not know what hit them.

Actually, it was something straight out of a Ripley's believe-it-or-not script. Sourav Ganguly said after the match that he did not know how India had won. "Sehwag can do nothing wrong right now," said the Indian captain.

The dynamo from Delhi picked up his second consecutive man-of-the-match award and is in the form of his life. He is batting like a champion. And on Wednesday, when Ganguly threw the ball to him, he again turned a match-winner. His confidence level at this moment is so high that there is nothing beyond his reach.

When South Africa began their chase, Gibbs made batting look so simple. He found the boundary with effortless ease and raced to his ninth one-day hundred. Kallis, who was slow to begin with, later matched Gibbs in strokeplay.

The Indian attack appeared quite pedestrian at that time. But Harbhajan's over in which he claimed the wickets of Jonty Rhodes and Boeta Dippenaar was the turning point of the match. Or perhaps even before that, when Gibbs decided to retire hurt.

The remaining South Africa batsmen played like novices. The turnaround was so dramatic that the ICC can well be pardoned if they decide to have a close look at this game. Kallis left the charge till an absurdly late juncture. He was well set, but simply not prepared to play the big shots even when South Africa had so many wickets in hand.

But all credit to India, who really played like a well-knit team. Sehwag provided India with another searing start and Yuvraj gave the team a flourish towards the end, but South Africa saved at least 30 crucial runs with some stupendous fielding to restrict India to 261.

When Sehwag was at the crease, a score of 300 looked a distinct possibility but the Proteas fielders led by Rhodes, Gibbs and Dippenaar made the runs difficult to come by.

Sehwag started with two crashing drives of the back foot in the very first over of the innings sent down by Pollock. He kept finding the boundary without much difficulty and raced to his half-century. But the South Africans had a plan for him and it ultimately yielded the wicket of the dangerman.

Sehwag is not as comfortable with the short balls as he is with the ones that are pitched up. Finally, it was one such short and quick ball that Sehwag mistimed and spooned a catch to Makhaya Ntini off the bowling of Kallis.

That was perhaps the most important blow as the runs dried up after the fall of Sehwag. A score in excess of 300 started looking very remote. In the end, it was left to Yuvraj and Dravid to take the Indians past the 250-mark.

Captain Shaun Pollock bowled an excellent last spell in which he claimed three wickets in the penultimate over of the innings to set the Indians back. Allan Donald was the other impressive bowler with two wickets in a spell that was noteworthy for the intelligent slow balls that the veteran bowler mixed with his speedy deliveries.

Apart from Sehwag and Yuvraj, India were also helped by a mature innings of 49 from Dravid. But skipper Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman were the disappointments.

The ever-agile Rhodes ran out Tendulkar, Laxman's non-existent footwork let him down once again and Ganguly chose to take the dangerous aerial route when he was batting very well. Tendulkar looked subdued in his brief stay at the crease and finally misjudged the single after having placed the ball to the left of Rhodes.
The best fielder in the world was on to the ball in a flash and sent in a thundering return to Mark Boucher as non-striker Dravid sent back Tendulkar. The star Indian batsman had failed to beat Rhodes's return.

But all that is now in the distant past. India, with this incredible win are through to the finals that will be played on Sunday.

India: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Virender Sehwag, Vangipurappu Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra.

South Africa: Shaun Pollock (captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Jonty Rhodes, Boeta Dippenaar, Mark Boucher, Lance Klusener, Robin Peterson, Allan Donald, Makhaya Ntini.

Umpires: David Shepherd, Russel Tiffin.

Third Umpire: Daryl Harper.

Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle.

SCORECARD

First Published: Sep 25, 2002 00:00 IST