Very few matches in the world of sport match the pressure of an India-Pakistan clash. And if it happens to be at the World Cup, then it is off the charts.
The 2011 World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan was played on March 30 in Mohali. Both teams had some heavyweights in their line-ups – India had Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan while Pakistan had Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal, to name just a few.
India batted first on what looked like a great wicket. However, Pakistan left-arm fast bowler Wahab Riaz took the conditions out of the equation. Bowling one of the fastest spells in 50-over cricket, Riaz dismissed in-form batsmen like Sehwag (38), Virat Kohli (9) and Yuvraj Singh (0). India were in trouble at 141-4 at the halfway point.
From the other end, Tendulkar stood tall. Making the most of four lives given by Pakistan’s fielders, Tendulkar struck 85 from 115 balls to hold the innings together.
However, India were still in danger of finishing below 250. It took an unbeaten 36 off 39 balls from Suresh Raina to take them to 260-9. Riaz finished with brilliant figures of 5-46 but the visitors were let down by opening fast bowler Umar Gul, who went for 69 from eight overs.
The target was challenging but not beyond Pakistan. Openers Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez added 44 inside nine overs before Akmal was dismissed by a Zaheer knuckle ball.
All top six Pakistan batsmen reached double figures but failed to go all the way. All-rounder Yuvraj, who was having a great World Cup, dismissed Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan to help India reduce their opponents to 106-4.
India kept picking up wickets at regular intervals but Misbah refused to throw in the towel. But by the time Pakistan lost their ninth wicket for 208, they were well behind the asking rate. Misbah was the last man out for 56 from 76 balls as India extended their unbeaten record against Pakistan in World Cups and made it to the final.
After the match, India captain MS Dhoni said he misread the pitch and lauded his seamers Zaheer (2-58), Ashish Nehra (2-33) and Munaf Patel (2-40) for keeping a tight leash on the scoring.
“As the game progressed the wicket got slower, and in the middle overs it was difficult to score,” Dhoni said.
“It was important to just play the bowling with respect. It was turning, we read the wicket wrong and that's why we went with three seamers. But in the end the seamers bowled really well.”