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INDIA WINS WORLD TWENTY20 THRILLER

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MOMENT OF TRIUMPH: Indian cricketers celebrate after beating Pakistan in the ICC World Twenty20 final in Johannesburg. -- AP
MOMENT OF TRIUMPH: Indian cricketers celebrate after beating Pakistan in the ICC World Twenty20 final in Johannesburg. -- AP

Special Correspondent

Misbah’s heroics bring Pakistan within six runs of victory in inaugural ICC championship

Chennai: Amidst a sea of emotions, India clinched a humdinger by five runs to win the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Monday. Chasing India’s 157 for five, Pakistan was dismissed for 152 with three deliveries remaining.

Pakistan required 13 runs off the last over with one wicket left with Misbah-ul-Haq (43, 38b, 4x6) taking strike to paceman Joginder Sharma. The first delivery, a wide, was followed by a dot ball. Then, Misbah clouted Joginder down the ground for a six. Now, Pakistan required six from the last four.

Misbah, creating room, tried a sweep and was picked up by S. Sreesanth at short fine leg. After a few heart-stopping moments, with spectators on seat-edge, India had triumphed.

India had also achieved a rare title victory on the World limited overs stage. It was in the summer of 1983 at the Lord’s that Kapil Dev’s men stunned the West Indies to win the World Cup. In 1985, Sunil Gavaskar led India to victory in the World Cricket Championship in Australia, featuring all the major nations. In 2002, India and Sri Lanka were adjudged joint winners in the ICC Champions Trophy in Colombo after rain prevented a verdict. Now, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men have registered a sensational triumph in South Africa.

The in-form Misbah almost orchestrated a come-from-behind victory for Pakistan, striking off-spinner Harbhajan Singh for three sixes in the 17th over of the innings. Then Sohail Tanvir dumped Sreesanth twice over the ropes before the bowler breached the batsman’s defence. Left-arm pacemen Rudra Pratap Singh and Irfan Pathan picked up three wickets each for India, both bowling a fuller length and swinging the ball. Pathan was adjudged the Man of the Match for his impact in the middle of the innings.

Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi departed in one Irfan Pathan over, going for big hits. With Pakistan at 77 for six in the 12th over, the match had swung India’s way.

However, the brave Misbah kept Pakistan in the hunt, but in a match of many twists and turns it was the Indians who celebrated in the end.

R.P. Singh struck early for India in a zestful first spell, having Mohammed Hafeez snaffled up in the slips and cleaning up Kamran Akmal with one that straightened.

A belligerent Imran Nazir threatened to take the match away from India – he was particularly severe on Sreesanth – before being caught short at the striker’s end by a direct throw. This, perhaps, was the defining moment of the final.

There was some consolation for Pakistan when Shahid Afridi was adjudged the Player of the Series.

Earlier, opener Gautam Gambhir (75, 54b, 8x4, 2x6) showed flair and substance, utilising the pace of the ball well against the quicker bowlers and using his feet while striking the spinners. The left-hander also found the gaps.

Towards the end of the innings, the young Rohit Sharma blitzed a 16-ball unbeaten 30. However, for the most part, the Pakistani bowlers operated cleverly, mixing their length and pace.

They also achieved the crucial breakthroughs. Denied the width and the room, the in-form Yuvraj Singh (14 off 19 balls) miscued a pull off paceman Umar Gul. Held back for the second phase of the innings by Shoaib Malik, Gul impressed. His swing and length also signalled the end of the Indian skipper.

Dhoni had elected to bat under bright sunshine. Soon Yusuf Pathan, who replaced an injured Virender Sehwag, clouted Mohammad Asif for a six over the bowler’s head. His swift 15 provided the Indian innings early momentum.

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