Mohali: Sachin Tendulkar’s chancy 85 powered India to 260-9 against a Pakistan side which seemed overwhelmed by the hype built around Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final and the ‘cricket diplomacy´ surrounding it.
Sitting in the VIP box, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani watched on as Tendulkar enjoyed a series of let-offs.
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Playing in his sixth World Cup, Tendulkar had an lbw decision overturned on appeal, was dropped by Misbah-ul-Haq, Younus Khan and Umar Akmal, while stumper Kamran Akmal also missed a half-chance.
Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi, also the hapless bowler on three of those four occasions, could only hold his head in dismay as his team mates squandered opportunity after opportunity to cut short Tendulkar’s 115-ball stay that had 11 fours in it.
On a belter of a wicket at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had little hesitation in opting to bat first and he must have felt vindicated when Virender Sehwag (38) tore into the Pakistani attack.
The right-hander smashed five fours to milk 21 runs off Umar Gul’s second over, thus blunting Pakistan’s pace spearhead but India could not make the most of the flying start.
Wahab Riaz (5-46) trapped the opener leg before in the sixth over to end the 48-run opening stand and soon the boundary flow dried up.
The 68-run second wicket partnership between Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir (27) consolidated India’s position but it was not without toil.
Mohammad Hafeez ended the blossoming partnership by removing Gambhir and Riaz returned to claim Virat Kohli (9) and the in-form Yuvraj Singh with successive deliveries to reduce the co-hosts, cruising merrily at 116-1 at one stage, to 141-4.
Suresh Raina’s (36 not out) middle order cameo took India past the 250-mark.
India could have been in a bigger hole but Misbah dropped Tendulkar at mid-wicket, Younus grassed one at cover and Umar Akmal showed the same sloppiness, spilling one at mid-wicket.
Earlier in his innings, Tendulkar used a review to successfully overturn an lbw decision that had gone against him.
Just when it seemed nothing can stop the 37-year-old prolific run-getter from scoring his 100th international century, Afridi caught the Indian off Saeed Ajmal’s bowling, keeping his pre-match promise to deny Tendulkar the milestone.