Night Afridi applauded India

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Sonia Gandhi exulted in bindaas manner, son Rahul led the applause as India came off victorious, Sachin Tendulkar added to his massive collection of MoM awards, Shahid Afridi apologised to his “nation” for losing…

The place to be, indeed, was the PCA Stadium.

Watched by the high and mighty, reputations were made, enhanced and taken to the cleaners as India registered their second entry into a World Cup final in three editions.

The passion-powered journey which began in Dhaka will, therefore, end in Mumbai with Sri Lanka being the opponents on Saturday.

After a season filled with scams, there’s something to actually look forward to, as Mahendra Singh Dhoni has the chance to emulate Kapil Dev.

India took to today’s semi-final never having lost to Pakistan in the World Cup and that stays. Sachin, who scored 85 (let’s forget the four chances), has featured in all five such matches.

More than the nerves, it was a test of skill in Mohali, which also hosted Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousaf Raza Gilani, Aamir Khan and Vijay Mallya. Pakistan came up short.

At one stage, with Pakistan making a solid start, it appeared as if 260 was at least 25 runs short of an ideal total. Eventually, it was 29 too many.

“We’ll get to 261… I’m confident,” Qamar Zaman Kaira, a former federal minister of Pakistan and a confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari, told The Telegraph at the break.

Kaira, who came with Gilani’s delegation, wasn’t to be seen after Virat Kohli caught top-scorer Misbah-ul Haq off Zaheer Khan to signal the end of Pakistan’s 2011 campaign.

Pakistan erred by delaying the Powerplay (taken in the 46th over, with eight wickets gone) and Afridi should have come up the order, at least before Abdul Razzaq.

So, even tactically, Pakistan were found wanting.

Not that Pakistan didn’t have their moments. Had the experienced Younis Khan anchored the chase, then the story could’ve been different.

“It’s important to peak at the right time.… The beauty of this game is that nothing comes easy.… We’re quite prepared for the final,” Dhoni, who lifted the inaugural World T20 four years ago, maintained.

Sachin thanked the capacity crowd for “terrific support” and lauded the team’s bowling and fielding. Believe it or not, even Ashish Nehra was smart.

Looking ahead to the final, Sachin said: “We want to be calm and focused.… Just want to do the job.”

Kumar Sangakkara, for one, won’t be sleeping well tonight.

If Dhoni admitted he’d read the wicket wrong (which led to Ravichandran Ashwin getting dropped and Nehra recalled), Sachin conceded that it initially looked like a “310-315” track to him.

That’s when vice-captain Virender Sehwag was smashing Umar Gul all over the park. Clearly, it was at the wrong time that Pakistan’s best new ball bowler in the World Cup had an off day.

Wahab Riaz, though, brought Pakistan back into the contest. Thus far best known for being investigated by Scotland Yard after the sting operation on spot-fixing, the left-arm quick turned in a career-best performance —five for 46.

Towards the end of the India innings, Suresh Raina put together an unbeaten 36, runs which made the difference.

For Pakistan to get across the line, somebody had to do a Sachin. The start was promising enough (44 runs), but no other partnership was substantial.

More to the point, India’s move to field a 3-1 attack didn’t backfire. For a change, Dhoni didn’t have to use more than five bowlers and each one of them got two wickets apiece.

Yuvraj Singh the batsman failed, out first ball, but Yuvraj the bowler delivered. In fact, he put the skids on Pakistan by evicting Asad Shafiq and Younis in quick succession.

Be it Nehra, Zaheer, Munaf Patel or the very emotional Harbhajan Singh, all produced some great deliveries.

Afridi, to his credit, was gracious in defeat: “India deserved to win.… I’d like to congratulate the team and the Indian nation.…”

What’s awaited is, of course, interior minister Rehman Malik’s reaction. He was present at the PCA Stadium and may just order a probe into the four lives given to Sachin!
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This post was submitted by superblogger.

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