Seven Out of Seven

The semi-final clash between arch-rivals India and Pakistan in the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup was more than just a game; it was a clash of nations, a battle of epic proportions.

A jubilant Team India celebrates after bowling Pakistan out I Source: NDTV Sports

Up for grabs was a spot in the biggest game in cricket, and the path to it went straight through either team’s greatest rivals. Heads of both states and other influential political figures were present at Mohali, which only further underlined how big the spectacle actually was.

The atmosphere was electric. Pakistan won the toss and opted to field first, a decision that would soon be put to the test.

As the Indian openers, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, walked out to bat, the crowd erupted in a chorus of cheers. Umar Gul ran in to bowl the first ball, and effortlessly, Sehwag swatted it away to the boundary as if he were facing an amateur. Sehwag started with a bang and continued to do so, smashing boundaries with ease.

Tendulkar, the maestro of the game, seemed to be in sublime touch on the other end as well, biding his time and finding the occasional gap. The duo was building towards another great partnership, and Pakistan's bowlers were under immense pressure. On came Wahab Riaz, and Sehwag was dismissed. As he walked back, a hushed silence fell over the stadium. The hopes of a billion rested on Tendulkar's shoulders. He continued to stroke the ball with grace and precision, inching towards yet another century. On his way, he was helped by the DRS as well as the Pakistani fielders who had walked onto the field with butter fingers.

His luck ran out when he was on 85 runs, finally succumbing to a great grab by Afridi, succumbing to the pressure. With the departure of Tendulkar, India found itself at a critical juncture. The middle order, though talented, needed to step up. Riaz had different plans. Kohli edged one to Akmal behind the wickets, and Yuvraj faced a peach of a first delivery. A yorker that swung in was too good for even the ever-reliable Yuvi, and after a strong start, India was now in a spot of bother. Dhoni and Raina bided their time on the pitch. Although MSD got out, Raina painstakingly took India to a competitive total of 260 runs for the loss of nine wickets, even with tailenders.

As the Indian team walked off the field, they knew they had a respectable total on the board, but the match was far from over. Pakistan's batting lineup was no pushover, and they were hungry for a victory. In response, Pakistan started steadily, with Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez providing a solid foundation. Kamran got out first, but till the 15-over mark, it looked like Pakistan would run away with the game.

In a moment of stupidity, Hafeez played a scoop that only went as far as MSD behind the wickets. After that wicket, Pakistan just never built a partnership. Every bowler had a piece of the pie, as all five of them took two wickets each. Misbah tried to salvage a result somehow, but by the time he started hitting the ball, the match was firmly out of his grasp. In full flow, he heaved a full toss which went miles in the air but not far enough into the crowd. Kohli was there to pocket the catch and mouth a few expletives in trademark fashion. The crowd went into a tizzy, and "Chak De India" rang all across the stadium, drowning out even the noise of the fireworks. As the players exchanged handshakes and the Indian flag waved proudly in the stands, the Indian team realised that the job was far from finished. They were yet to cross the final hurdle, which can sometimes prove to be the hardest of them all. Their date with destiny had been booked for 2 April 2011.


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