Sachin Tendulkar rode his luck as India made 260 for nine against arch-rivals Pakistan in the World Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
India’s total would have been considerably less had not Tendulkar been dropped four times on his way to top-scoring with 85 – an innings that still left him one shy of a hundred international hundreds.Wahab Riaz kept Pakistan in the match with an impressive display of left-arm fast bowling on his way to a career-best five for 46.
The 25-year-old’s performance was all the more admirable as he would have been omitted had Pakistan recalled veteran fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar.
But Riaz, who took a wicket in his first over and later struck twice in two balls, was a constant threat as he surpassed his previous best of three for 22 against Bangladesh in Dhaka three years ago.
“I think 260 will be enough. The wicket’s taking spin and if we bowl in the right places it will be very difficult for them,” said Suresh Raina, who finished unbeaten on 36.
Virender Sehwag made a typically brisk start after India captain MS Dhoni won the toss, with 21 runs coming off Umar Gul’s second over – the paceman’s eight costing 69 in all.
However, a bowling change saw Riaz strike fifth ball when he had Sehwag, hitting across the line, lbw for 38 including nine boundaries.
Tendulkar, opening with Sehwag, subsequently square-drove Riaz for four to become the first batsman ever to score 400 runs in World Cups.
But off-spinner Saeed Ajmal nearly had him out twice in successive balls for 23, a reviewed lbw and tight stumping call both going against Pakistan.
Then, on 27, Tendulkar pulled Pakistan captain and leg-spinner Shahid Afridi hard to short mid-wicket only for Misbah-ul-Haq to drop the two-handed catch.
And Tendulkar was dropped again, on 45, when he mistimed a drive off Afridi and Younus Khan at mid-off failed to hold on.
Tendulkar completed a 67-ball fifty with his eighth boundary, off Afridi, before Riaz struck again.
He had Virat Kohli fending to Umar Akmal at backward point and next ball clean bowled Yuvraj Singh, the hero of India’s quarter-final win over champions Australia, for nought on the batsman’s home ground with a swinging full toss.
Dhoni survived the hat-trick after the ball just missed his outside edge.
Tendulkar was given a third reprieve by Pakistan on 70 when wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal failed to hold a tough chance off an edged Afridi leg-break.
And he was on 81 when a leaping Umar Akmal at short mid-wicket dropped a checked drive against off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez.
However, Afridi – who had vowed Tendulkar would not reach the landmark score in this match – ended his innings when he took a sharp catch at short extra-cover off a hard-hit drive against Ajmal.
Tendulkar faced 115 balls with 11 fours.
When Riaz returned he had Dhoni lbw for 25 to leave India 205 for six before completing his five-wicket haul when Zaheer Khan was caught behind.
The winner of this match will face Sri Lanka in Saturday’s final in Mumbai.