Last night was the game Australian captain, Ricky Ponting chose to finally answer his detractors. It also turns out to be the last game he shall ever play in a Cricket World Cup.
If Pakistan ended Australia’s 34 match unbeaten streak in the competition, India made sure that cricket would see a new World Champion for the first time since 1999, thus setting up a tantalizing semifinal between the two arch-rivals.
The Australian skipper held his team’s inning together in an intelligent knock of 104, but with the lack of support he got from the other players, they fell a few dozen runs short. And the match was close enough to regret every lost run and opportunity. ‘Till the last hour, the game belonged to no team. The Australian bowlers were bowling well, and India was inching its way towards the challenging target.
A minor collapse by the Indian middle order surprised no one, and Australia found itself on top, with India down to its last recognized batting pair. We then got to see a few overs of some wonderful intelligent counter-attacking by Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, as they calmly led India to what now seems like an effortless and easy victory.
Yuvraj is the man in form both with the bat and bowl, and India can do no better than by keeping Raina in the team over the one-dimensional Yusuf Pathan. With the pitch helping the bowlers in this tournament, thankfully there really seems to be no role for brute-force sloggers.
In the midst of it all, Sachin Tendulkar crossed yet another milestone:18000 runs in ODI cricket. But it is only a sign of ennui (and greatness) that comes with watching a player play so well for so long, that a feat like that becomes just a minor footnote in this article.