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Friday, September 21, 2007


The star was out nursing his elbow.

Could Team India do it? They'd got the 6-6's in an over boost, but they were up against the home team. Home turf always changes stuff. There is the adrenaline charged crowd backing you and hoping the visitors just don't get make it. You know your turf best. The odds favour the hosts.

That was the situation facing our young team, who didn't make the most promising of starts having won the toss and electing to bat in the final Twenty20 World Cup Super Eights group E match against South Africa.

It was a do-or head home situation for India. They had to win to stay afloat. They had to hit back to tame South Africa, they simply had no choice but to oust Graeme Smith's home team out of the tournament.

India struggled with the bat when they took to the crease. None of the first four batsmen could inch towards the 20 mark. In fact, three wickets fell for one run in four balls following a double strike by veteran Shaun Pollock in the fifth over. That was well before the newly crowned skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Rohit Sharma arrived to add 49 for the fifth wicket. Dhoni hit 45 off 33 balls in style. Not quite lightening Yuvraj stuff, but four boundaries and a six were enough to keep the fans happy. 20-year-old Sharma was a sight to behold. Batting for the first time in the tournament, he made an unbeaten 50 off 40 balls, reaching his half-century off the final delivery with a six to mid-wicket. India posted 153 for five. Not the most challenging of totals. It looked like South Africa would take this away.

Fired by their skipper, one reckons, the bowlers arrived and started unleashing magic all round. Left-arm seamer Rudra Pratap Singh led India's charge with 4-13 from his four overs. Sreesanth and Harbhajan claimed two wickets each to send the Proteas packing by restricting them to just 116 for nine.

Up next, another edge of the seat clash. Tomorrow's semi-final sees India take on mighty Australia at Kingsmead while New Zealand meet group F leaders Pakistan at the Newlands in Cape Town.

In a rather bizarre turn of events, South Africa not only lost a match they appeared to be winning but failed to make 126 that would have helped them beat New Zealand on run-rate.

It's unfair, it's unjust, it's sad, but such is the nature of sport. We haven't forgotten the World Cup, have we? So, what's gonna happen next? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Though I can tell you that keeping those toes and fingers crossed does bust that stress.

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