India through to finalAlex Crampton |
An explosive performance by India, led by the astounding-of-late Yuvraj Singh and the colourful Sreesanth took them past Australia, and into the final, where they will meet Pakistan.
But halfway through India’s innings, Australia were well on top. The first ten overs had yielded just 60 runs, with the wickets of both openers, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag falling to Mitchell Johnson. The next ten though, would prove to unfold very differently, thanks mainly to Yuvraj Singh.
Following on from his incredible performance against England, Yuvraj once again cleared the boundary with ease; his first six came effortlessly off just his second ball. Yuvraj and Robin Uthappa added a lightning 84, filled with sixes. Andrew Symonds was sent for 19 off an over, Stuart Clark, arguably the tournament’s best bowler, was dealt with easily.
Yuvraj reached his half-century, this time a 20-ball effort with consecutive boundaries, and struck one six estimated at 119m, easily the longest of the tournament. The runs just kept flowing, and there was nothing Australia could do to stop them. Wherever they bowled, it seemed Yuvraj was able to find the boundaries, rendering their fielders redundant.
Yuvraj eventually fell to Andrew Symonds’ off spin for 70, but Mahendra Dhoni offered Australia no respite, chipping in with his own cameo of 36 from 18. The eventual total was 188, with 128 coming from the final ten overs, more than double the total from the first ten.
Chasing 189, a lot more than it looked they’d have to, Australia made a steady start for Twenty20 cricket. The boundaries did look to be starting to flow however 17 runs came in the fifth over, before Sreesanth castled Adam Gilchrist in the sixth. Matthew Hayden was beginning to open up at this point, but Brad Hodge was unable to aid him, slapping one wide down the leg side to short fine leg, gifting a wicket to Irfan Pathan.
That only served to bring in Andrew Symonds however, who united with his Queensland team mate Hayden to put Australia in the driving seat. Both began to pummel the ball to the boundaries, and took advantage of India’s fifth bowlers, taking 20 off Virender Sehwag’s sole over, and 31 from Joginder Sharma’s first two.
The pair shared 66 in six overs, but it was Sreesanth who broke the partnership. Again, his victim was clean bowled, and it was Hayden for a brutal 67. Australia were still in the hunt though, with Symonds and Michael Hussey, a proven finisher, at the crease. Irfan Pathan provided India with another big strike though, bowling Symonds in the 17th over.
With three overs to go, the match was delicately poised, as Australia needed 30 to win, with the two Michaels, Clarke and Hussey at the crease. It was Harbhajan Singh who took the ball from Dhoni to bowl the 18th, and he delivered in style. The first ball yorked Clarke, which would prove to be a critical blow.
Given Hussey’s injured hamstring, Clarke was the player most capable of taking Australia home, and without him, it would prove too difficult. Harbhajan sent down five more darts that were impossible to hit for boundaries, for an over that cost just three. RP Singh kept things tight in the 19th, Haddin whiffing several times outside off stump, unsuccessfully trying to take wide balls over cow corner.
That left 22 needed off the last over, which was bowled by Joginder Sharma, who been taken for 19 off an over earlier in the match. He was more than up to the task though, keeping the ball up in the blockhole to ensure it was mathematically impossible for Australia to win by the midpoint of the over. He also claimed two wickets, those of Hussey and Brett Lee, before Mitchell Johnson took four off the last ball to reduce the margin of defeat to 15 runs.
It was an outstanding performance by most of the Indian bowlers. The figures might not reflect it entirely, but when it was needed, they got the job done. Sreesanth’s figures were particularly striking, four overs for 12 against this Australian line up is truly amazing. The two Singhs and Joginder Sharma also made important contributions, especially Sharma, who sent down an excellent final over for India.
Yuvraj Singh 70, Mahendra Dhoni 36, Robin Uthappa 34
Mitchell Johnson 2-31
Matthew Hayden 67, Andrew Symonds 43
Sreesanth 2-12, Joginder Sharma 2-37, Irfan Pathan 2-44
India win by 15 runs
Cricket Web Man of the Match: Yuvraj Singh