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SPORTS - LUCKY INDIA BEATS UNLUCKY PAKISTAN.

Byline: ANISUDDIN KHAN

If Pakistani nation complains that Pakistan team has not defeated host India in the crucial 2011 world cup semi final on the flat track of Mohali, they are justified. But they are unjustified if they complain that Pakistan has not played well. Contrary to the popular perception, Pakistan gave sterling performance and they had their favorite opponents by the scruff of the neck but as luck would have it Pakistan lost the winning grip after letting the master batsman Sachin Tendulkar off the hook with six dropped catches of chances.

From the gloom of defeat has emerged a star in Wahab Riaz who proved that hard work would be awarded. His five for 46 laid the foundation for a possible victory which was squandered by the batsmen and poor catching.

Luck always plays important and match winning role in any sports of the world more so in cricket. History of various sports is replete with the amazing stories of luck deserting a team or an individual that almost are on the verge of victory. Same thing happened with luck siding India as hosts smoothly rode the luck while Pakistan had a rodeo ride with the biggest element that influences the final outcome of any sporting contest.

Taking catches in cricket are reflexive action when the mind joins hand with motor action to complete an act. If the combination is perfect the ball would automatically stick to the hand. Jacob Orama's one handed high catch of Jacques Kallis on the boundary was one of the biggest spectacle that the 2011 world cup has seen. It tuned the match in favour of the Kiwis and South Africa lost just because of one catch. Nothing is more closure to the truth in cricket than the saying "catches win matches".

But on Wednesday night at Mohali Pakistani dropped not one but six catches of batsman like Sachin Tendulkar who despite getting charmed lives could not reach the centuries of centuries in ODI. Again this was like Pakistan defeat was destined. A batsman of the caliber of Sachin did everything wrong and kept surviving, and Pakistan's fielders did everything they could to aid his survival. Shahid Afridi who had spoken not allowing Tendulker to get a century in the semi final for a record in cricket would have had his heart in his mouth for much of India's innings as his fielders scripted a comedy of errors around him.

The drama didn't begin with a dropped catch, though. The 11th oversaw Saeed Ajmal breach Tendulkar's defenses and Ian Gould promptly raising the finger. Out LBW. Not. Tendulkar, for long a vocal critic of the Umpire Decision Review System, finally saw the advantages as replays showed the ball missing leg. The very next ball, he narrowly survived being stumped too. Three overs later, on 27, Misbah-ul Haq dropped a sitter at midwicket as bowler Afridi looked on in astonishment. On 45, again off Afridi, Younis Khan made a hash of a relatively simple chance. This time, the skipper yelled and flung his arms in frustration.

A relatively quiet period where Tendulkar proceeded to build his innings was broken again on 70, when that doyen of botched chances, wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal failed to move to his right in time. It was a difficult one but the bowler, again, was Afridi, who by now had his head in his hands! Eleven runs later, Kamran's brother Umar dropped another catch able one at mid-wicket, this time off Mohammad Hafeez.

It seemed there was nothing more Sachin could do wrong. But with the ton only 15 runs away, Afridi himself dived and latched on to a drive to end the dream. The cat's nine lives had run out. Afridi had rediscovered his grin.

Sachin close shave with the destiny began in the fourth ball of the 11th over. Saeed Ajmal raps Tendulkar on the pad and umpire Ian Gouldraises the finger. Tendulkar goes for the review, replays show ball will miss leg stump. Tendulkar was 23 and India 75/1. In the next ball Ajmal goes past Tendulkar's bat with a doosra who lunges forward as Akmal appeals for a stumping. Tendulkar just gets his leg back in time. Tendulkar was on 23 and India 75/1. The certain chance of getting the master blaster out came in first ball of 14th over. Tendulkar pulls Shahid Afridi towards short mid-wicket where Misbah-ul-Haq drops a sharp low chance. Tendulkar was on 27 and India 84/1. The Indian kept on enjoying luck when for the fourth time he was let off on the third ball of the 20th over. Tendulkar chips Afridi to Younis Khan at covers who drops a sitter at comfortable height near his shoulder. Ball was parried up but Younis failed to latch on off the second attempt as well.

Tendulkar was on 45. India 116/2. That was not the end .In third ball of the 30th over Tendulkar facing Shahid Afridi edged off a defensive push but Kamran Akmal failed to hold on to the ball. Tendulkar was 70 and India 163/4. His sixth life came in the last bal of the 37th over when Tendulkar goes for a whip-pull shot off Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal at short mid-wicket jumps and gets two hands to the ball but it pops out.

Tendulkar was 81 and India 183/4. Finally Tedulkar fall to a catch by Afridi off Saeed Ajmal for 85, fifteen short of the ton of the tons which he did not at all deserved. Had he reached the mile stone it would have been the poorest hundred from Sachin having six lives. Sachin Tendulkar was honest in admitting that never in his 21-year career has he got reprieve as many as five times in one innings. "Five lives! God has been kind to me. It is not something which has happened to me earlier," Tendulkar said.

The question why Pakistan lost a match which he could have easily won will haunt the cricket fans and cricket commentators when ever they would discuss the trauma the nation under went under the blazing lights of Mohali stadium. The fate of the needle contest hung by the narrowest of threads. Pakistan's fine bowling on a placid pitch could not compensate for its abysmal catching skills. India's batting was below its best. Team India deserved to win this game; Pakistan didn't. A team that gives Sachin Tendulkar six lives does not deserve to win a crunch knock-out game. If Shahid Afridi and his team had taken their catches, they would have restricted India to 220 or less. But, look bent upon giving Tendulkar his 100th ton. Pakistan could have wrapped up for 220 or less but the butter fingered Pakistanis and sloppy out fielding helped India reach 260. When Pakistan got off to a good start, India did not panic.

Harbhajan's dismissal of Umar Akmal was the turning point of the match. The young Pakistani was threatening to take the game away when the turbaned spinner struck. His Afridi dismissal was again crucial. Misbah-ul-Haqis 56 made at the pace of iceberg added to Pakistanis woes.

Pakistan lost the semi final, which they could have won displaying discipline in fielding, catching and batting. But as the luck would it, they ended at the other side of victory.
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Publication:Pakistan & Gulf Economist
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Apr 10, 2011
Words:1222
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