Ahmedabad: Title aspirants India knocked defending champions Australia out of the cricket World Cup with a thrilling five-wicket victory to set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash against archrivals Pakistan on Thursday.
After restricting Australia to 260 for 6, largely built around Ricky Ponting’s 104, the Indians held their nerves to overhaul the target with 14 balls to spare with Yuvraj Singh (57 not out), and Sachin Tendulkar (53) being the star batting performers.
In a cracker of a contest, fortune fluctuated from one team to the other before Singh and Suresh Raina (34 not out) tilted the balance in India’s favour with an unbeaten 74 run partnership to send a capacity crowd at the Sardar Patel stadium into a frenzy.
Barring a few lapses here and there, it was a clinical display by the Indians as they ended Australia’s reign as world champions and have given a huge boost to their campaign to regain the coveted trophy after a gap of 28 years.
The dashing allrounder slammed Brett Lee to the boundary to bring about the dramatic victory as the Indian players and officials hugged each to celebrate the triumph amid deafening cheers from nearly 43,000 spectators.
India will now travel to Mohali for the much-anticipated semi-final match against bitter foes Pakistan.
Opting to bat first, Ponting notched up his 30th ODI century and his 5th in the World Cup to not only silence his detractors but also guide Australia to a decent total on a rather slow and turning track at the Sardar Patel stadium.
Apart from Ponting 118-ball 104, Brad Haddin (53) and David Hussey (38 not out) were the other notable performers for the defending champions. For the Indians, Singh (2/44), R Ashwin (2/52) and Zaheer Khan (2/53) were the wicket-takers.
The Indian innings began with a flourish as both Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag went on the offensive and unleashed a flurry of boundaries in the first five overs.
Speedster Shaun Tait came in for some harsh punishment as he repeatedly strayed in line and length and was promptly dispatched to the boundary. He also bowled a few wides and no balls to compound the problems for the defending champion.
Sehwag, who was not in his destructive best, survived a caught behind appeal in the very first over off Lee.
The duo put on 44 brisk runs for the opening wicket before Shane Watson provided the breakthrough by evicting Sehwag (15) who paid the price for playing a poor shot to a bouncing delivery.