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Windies beat India for semi-final berth

By Deepti Patwardhan in Ahmedabad
Last updated on: October 27, 2006 00:27 IST
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The West Indies scored a thrilling three-wicket victory over India at the Sardar Patel stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad, on Thursday to become the first team from Group A to enter the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy.

Chasing India's 223 for 9, the defending champions suffered a dramatic collapse at the end of their innings but finally pulled through when Marlon Samuels hit a four to take them to 224 for seven in 49.4 overs.

Ramnaresh Sarwan (53) and Runako Morton (45) had batted the team to the brink of victory, but the loss of four wickets in the space of seven runs took the match right down to the wire.

"People say we always provide excitement. So we gave this match, and we have also given you a do-or-die match for India in Mohali," declared Lara after the victory.

Earlier, late-hitting by Mahendra Singh Dhoni (51) propped India to a competitive total.

Having won both their league matches, the West Indies qualified for the last four.

The match between India and Australia in Mohali on Sunday will now decide the second semi-finalist from the group, since both teams have one victory in two games.

England, the last team in the group, lost both their previous matches and are thus out of the competition.

India innings:

A capacity crowd that had started filling up the stadium since the morning itself reached a crescendo when Indian openers Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag walked in after being put into bat by a fit-again Brian Lara.

Sehwag provided the early entertainment with flying slashes and punches through point to give India a racy start. But the batsman, who has failed to cross 20 in his last five matches, was trapped leg before wicket by Jerome Taylor for 14.

Taylor, who claimed the first ODI hat-trick for the West Indies in the previous match against Australia, bowled well with the new ball. He made his intentions clear by bouncing Sehwag on the first ball of the innings and bowled slightly short of length to keep India on the back-foot.

Left-arm paceman Ian Bradshaw, though not as disciplined, had Pathan playing onto the stumps before he could score. The left-hander tried to steer a slightly wide ball though the off-side but got a thick inside edge that carried to the stumps.

Old war-horses Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid vibrated a sense of assurance. Even the crafty ones and twos from the duo were enthusiastically celebrated in the stands.

On Wednesday, Lara had said it was a kind of pitch that would require application and hard work from the batsmen. That's exactly what the veteran players set out to do. But they had barely sustained it for 10 overs when Tendulkar was bowled by Bradshaw.

The bowler, coming back for his second spell from the opposite (far) end, had Tendulkar reaching for a fuller delivery and sneaking from the toe of the bat onto the stumps.

Dravid, in the company on Yuvraj Singh, tried to glue back the scattered pieces. The left-hander seemed in great touch, timing the ball superbly, to conjure a couple of pretty cover drives, while the skipper ground out the runs at the other end.

Lara preferred to shuffle around his faster men rather than introduce Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels. The pace of the bowlers, who had nothing much to offer with the old ball, also aided the Indian batsmen, making it easier for them to place it in the gaps.

But after a 61-run partnership, another setback was round the corner as India lost three quick wickets.

Yuvraj (27, 43 balls, 4x4) drove a slower delivery from Bradshaw in the air to hand Bravo (fielder at cover) a simple catch.

Dravid was run out in the same over on 49 to a direct hit from Dwayne Smith, as India were reduced to 131 for five.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, showing the straight face of the bat and tapping the ball down, was an unusual sight. The run-rate suffered with the introduction of the slower bowlers, India getting only 11 from over number 35 to 40, and Raina scoring India's first boundary in 74 balls.

Even after Raina's dismissal for 19, Dhoni stuck to his brief. He hit his first four only on the 46th ball that he faced, maintaining a low-profile on the field.

But once India entered the slog overs, he came up with his signature shots. He took Gayle to the cleaners in the 47th over, knocking two sixes over the mid-wicket fence and a four. Gayle, who has been a good bet for the West Indies because of his extremely slow bowling, wilted under the fiery attack from Dhoni and conceded 17 runs in the over.

Dhoni's effort gave the Indian innings a much-needed fillip, and though he could not find the boundaries as easily as he does, he ran well between the wickets to carry India to a respectable total.

He completed his 50 off 64 balls despite playing cautiously in the beginning.

India lost two wickets off the last two deliveries, those of Dhoni (51) and Agarkar (1), as the innings ended on 223 for nine.

West Indies innings:

Apart from inconsistent batting, India's ordinary success rate in one-day internationals has a lot to do with the fact that on a given day only one or two bowlers, sometimes spells, have done the job.

On Thursday, Munaf Patel ran in fast, stuck to a tight line outside the off-stump and drew the batsmen into tentative drives but the runs came thick and fast at the other end. Irfan Pathan was thrashed for 22 runs in three overs, after which he was removed from the attack

Ajit Agarkar, though getting the ball to move a little, would give away a boundary ball in an over to release the pressure.

Munaf, making his home debut, got the first wicket for India when he had Chris Gayle caught by R P Singh at mid-off. The tall left-hander had done some damage already, slamming seven fours in his 37-ball innings of 34, and setting up an opening partnership of 43 with Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

After Munaf had bowled a tidy first spell of six over, two maidens, one for 18, and along with Agarkar had kept the scoring rate to 4.5, R P Singh's introduction into the attack tilted the game in West Indies' favour.

The left-arm pacer bowled short and down the leg-side and was promptly pulled for two boundaries by Chanderpaul. He conceded 11 runs in the first over and was hit for a four by Dwayne Bravo when he was brought back from the other end. He was taken for another 18 runs in his next three overs.

Chanderpaul, who missed the last game against Australia due to a stomach bug, was back in full flow against India. The left-hander has a reputation of doing well against Indian bowlers and he enhanced that by playing another stroke-filled innings.

Though the pitch had aided the South Africans under lights against Sri Lanka, the track was shaved bare before the match and that didn't make things easy for pace-heavy Team India. Even Munaf couldn't make an impact in the second spell, going for 11 runs in two overs.

That the track was responsive to spinners was evident with the first ball Harbhajan bowled; he got it to turn away from Chanderpaul. 'Turbunator' looked a big threat for the West Indies batsman, who, at times were not even good enough to get an edge to his off-breaks.

It was the off-spinner who broke the 57-run second wicket stand between Chanderpaul and Bravo when he had the latter leg before wicket on 16.

Virender Sehwag struck in his first over, inducing an edge off Chanderpaul to Dravid at slip.

Spinners operating at both ends made life uneasy for the new batsmen. But Ramnaresh Sarwan, a good player of spin, played with assurance and worked the ball well in the gaps. He and Runako Morton, man of the match in the West Indies' previous game, saw off the critical overs.

Harbhajan and Sehwag managed to bring the equation at run-a-ball with nine overs remaining.

India, however, could not choke the runs, and with the dew coming down heavily, the fielders were slipping all over the ball. Almost every time West Indies found themselves in the deficit, they were gifted a loose delivery and a handy boundary.

Agarkar enthused drama into the match by taking the wicket of Morton, 45 in 65 balls, inclusive of two fours and a six. The Mumbai bowler, who lacked discipline at the death, got the ball to straighten and hit Morton in front of the middle stump.

That brought in Brian Lara to the middle and a buzz in the stadium. The master batsman looked edgy, trying to finish the game off in as few balls as possible. He cut Pathan for a four and tried to repeat it on the next ball, but chopped the delivery onto his stumps to bring the crowd alive.

It was frantic play. India were trying to keep themselves in, the West Indies fell into the trap of complacency. The pressure was showing on the defending champions; they had lost many games from winning positions in recent times and this could well have gone that way.

Sarwan (53) who had kept a cool head all through was also rushing. He was run-out while attempting to sneak the second run two balls after Lara's dismissal.

Five runs, six balls, that's the position Agarkar stepped in at. 50,000 people were behind him and the bowler gave them a reason to explode. He rocked Dwayne Smith's off stump on the first ball, as the batsman went through for a lofty drive.

Carlton Baugh scampered for a single off the third ball; four runs three balls.

Agarkar dug one short, Marlon Samuels stepped back and spanked the ball over backward point. Two fielders were converging on it but the ball raced to the fence, deflating the supporters and India's chances at the tournament.

India now has to win the match against Australia in Mohali to stay in the competition.

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Deepti Patwardhan in Ahmedabad

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