Cricket

Gritty India dethrones Australia

Yuvraj Singh steered India into the semifinals with an unbeaten half-century against Australia in Ahmedabad. Photo: K.R. Deepak  

Yuvraj Singh has steel in his bones. And he has wings too — he often takes flight in the field of dreams.

On a gut-wrenching day when Ricky Ponting constructed a century of character, an inspired Yuvraj had the final say in the sweltering cauldron that the Sardar Patel Stadium was on Thursday.

The Australian reign in the World Cup, stretching from 1999, had ended. And India is through to the semifinals where it will take on Pakistan in a much-awaited duel at Mohali on March 30.

Sea of emotions

The arena was a sea of emotions after the irrepressible Yuvraj off-drove Brett Lee to seal the win in the 48th over.

Man-of-the-Match Yuvraj (57 not out) and an impressive Suresh Raina (34 not out) orchestrated the Indian comeback after the Aussies held the aces. The rollicking left-handed pair was just right for India at the crunch. Successfully chasing down Australia's 260, the host was home by five wickets.

The image of a bleeding Lee — he dived in vain on the fine-leg ropes to prevent a Yuvraj boundary — conveyed the sort of night it was for Australia. Things went horribly wrong for Ponting's men once Yuvraj joined forces with Raina.

Resolute pair

The Indians displayed resolve, fighting from a worrying 187 for five in the 38th over. The game turned on its head.

Yuvraj displayed a calm head, picked up the singles and twos and was decisive when he went for the bigger blows. Yuvraj has grown in stature. His steady left-arm spin has proved valuable for India too.

Yuvraj thwacked Mitchell Johnson between the bowler and long-on, blasted Lee over cover point and hooked Watson past the ropes. Suresh Raina, in only his second innings of this tournament, showed immense maturity as the target was whittled down. A stunning six over long-on when Lee steamed in from round the wicket underlined the quality of his batsmanship.

At the end, Yuvraj, who went down on his knees, and Raina were locked in an embrace as they celebrated a famous Indian victory. During his innings, Yuvraj went past the 8,000-run mark in ODIs.

Tendulkar's milestone

Earlier, the Aussies appeared to be coming together as a pack. Virender Sehwag miscued a pull off Shane Watson. Sachin Tendulkar, who crossed 18,000 runs in ODIs, upper-cut a lifter from Shaun Tait, and pulled and flicked Johnson to raise Indian expectations.

Tendulkar breezed to a half-century but soon nicked a delivery of pace, bounce and a slight away deviation from Tait to 'keeper Brad Haddin. The dismissal was reviewed since there was a doubt whether Tait's back foot was on the return crease. The replays, however, revealed that Tait's foot was in the air.

The Aussie pace pack of Lee, Tait and Johnson generated speed and bounce on a sub-continental track and cleverly bowled cross seam. Gradually, spin came into play.

Off-spinner Jason Krezja got a few deliveries to turn. Left-hander Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli were stringing together a partnership when the latter hit a full toss from David Hussey to mid-wicket.

Good half-century

Gambhir eased into a well-composed fifty but walked back after attempting a non-existent single. Not much later, Dhoni succumbed to Lee on the cut. The Aussies were jubilant but the night ended in dejection for the men from down under.

The dry surface assisted spin and there was some purchase for the Indian spinners in the afternoon. Ponting, though, proved the roadblock after winning an important toss. Ponting not only times the ball beautifully but also has a great sense of timing. Old soldiers never die.

Ponting applied himself for his 30th ODI hundred; his batting has an economy of movement that symbolises the truly great. He assessed the pitch and the conditions, relied on placements and hard running between the wickets.

Fluent against spin

It was not a laborious innings either. Ponting was light on his feet against the spinners, including his nemesis Harbhajan Singh. Crucially, he countered spin by getting to the pitch of the ball. Ponting negotiated the threat from Zaheer, picking the length early and covering for the movement.

The Australian innings revolved around Ponting. Watson waltzed briefly before attempting a slog-sweep off a slower, flighted delivery from Ashwin to be castled. Dhoni had cleverly switched Ashwin's ends before the off-spinner struck.

Haddin's bat-speed and reflexes were his allies as he disrupted seamer Munaf Patel's length. Yuvraj Singh's tossed up delivery that temped Haddin to miscue a front-footed drive ended the Australian opener's tenure. Raina, preferred over Yusuf Pathan, dived in front to hold a fine catch in the covers.

The versatile Zaheer, used in short spells by Dhoni, cleaned up Michael Hussey with a slower ball. Yuvraj prised out Clarke who attempted to strike against spin. Actually, Tendulkar's monster leg-spinner to Clarke in the earlier over could have set up the dismissal.

The out-of-sorts Cameron White offered a return catch to Zaheer, who smartly switched to round-the-wicket.

David Hussey connected a few meaty blows towards the end — Australia grabbed 44 runs in the batting Power Play taken from the 44th over — and eventually reached a combative score. Then the Aussies had a sniff at a win. But Yuvraj and Raina had other ideas.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2020 7:24:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/Gritty-India-dethrones-Australia/article14961041.ece

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