By Syed Khalid Mahmood
India ’s fate in the ICC Champions Trophy hinged more on the result of the Australia-Pakistan game at the Super Sport Park in Centurion than their own against the West Indies at the Wanderers in Johannesburg .
Both the matches were taking place on the same day (September 30) and it was to India’s advantage that their encounter was a day-nighter, meaning it started a few hours later than the other one being played entirely in sunlight.
Pakistan had already qualified for the semifinals with the blessings of the Nature as the washed out tie between Australia and India allowed them this luxury even before taking the field for the final league outing.
Australia and India were the two contenders for the single semifinal slot that remained vacant. India were to get a lifeline only if Pakistan managed to defeat Australia . In other words India ’s fate was lying in Pakistan ’s hands.
Pakistan had all cards in their pocket entering the game against Australia and their peace of mind was reflected in body language. Younis Khan and his boys were absolutely relaxed while playing pressure-free cricket.
Australia had everything to play for but Pakistan were not supposed to be pushed about it. The manner in which Pakistan batted had made it clear that they were more interested in going through the motions rather than making efforts to do anything sensational. The idea of conserving energy for the upcoming knockout games might also have been in their mind.
Pakistan , who are known for making the most of the death overs even with tail-enders make hay, scored only one run in the penultimate over of the innings with specialist batsmen at the crease. The batting powerplay overs were hardly utilized.
Australia were cruising towards a cakewalk victory when suddenly the match opened up with the departure of Michael Hussey. There was tension in their camp and the wickets kept on tumbling as soon as the Pakistan bowlers applied pressure.
The pace trio of Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan bowled exceptionally well in their final spells and the Australians were absolutely clueless. It was happening at the same time when India were in the process of wrapping up the West Indian innings.
Obviously the Indians must have become interested but their excitement was short lived because the Australians somehow got the winning run on the final ball of their innings. That meant the end of the road for India as far as the tournament was concerned.
Had Australia succumbed to defeat, the Indian would have been in a rush to chase their target of 130 against the West Indies . Since that didn’t happen they had full 50 overs at their disposal to register a consolation win, their first in the competition.
The Indian captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who himself got a wicket against the West Indies, very right pointed out that it was the defeat to Pakistan that crippled their chances of qualifying for the semifinals. The road had to be bumpy afterwards and so it turned out.
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