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ICC T20 World Cup
T20 World Cup: India knocked out despite winning a thriller
It was one of the rare moments in international cricket - Pakistani fans were seen waving their national flags while South African batsmen hit Indian bowlers out of the park. Don't be surprised - they had every reason to do it - not just because India and Pakistan are archrivals - but also because South African batsmen held in their hands Pakistan's key to the semis.

IT WAS a busy cricketing day and since it was Gandhi Jayanti – a national holiday here in India, most of the cricket fans were glued to their TV screens right from afternoon, through evening till the midnight.

As is rightly said and observed, Pakistan cricket team – thanks to the natural talent they have at their disposal – is always unpredictable, given their record of winning almost impossible games and losing most easy ones. Same thing was witnessed at the Premadasa stadium in Sri Lanka, as they thrashed mighty Aussies by 32 runs. After a slow (probably planned) start, Pakistan started building their innings, with talented left-hander Nasir Jamshed scoring 64 from 67 balls, helping Pakistan pose a competitive target of 150 for the Aussies.

After suffering early jolts at the hands of captain Hafeez and very-talented 20-year-old spinner Raza Hasan, Australia never looked in command of the game and had to taste the defeat, the first one after five wins in their last T20 matches. But before they could lose the match, Mike Hussey, who scored an unbeaten 64 made sure that his team went through to the semis by scoring 112 runs, calculated according to the Net Run Rate of other teams in the super eight category.

Despite this big win, Pakistan’s fate of cruising into semis laid in the hands of Proteas, who took India in the second match scheduled for the day on the same ground. Though South Africans were already out of the tournament but India needed to beat them with a big margin to qualify for the semis.

After winning the toss, South African Captain AB de Villiers invited India to bat first, which after some initial jolts reached a competitive total of 152 runs. South Africa suffered its first setback in the very first over when its star batsman Hashim Amla went for duck. With some fine hits to the fence coming from captain’s bat and a spectacular display of cricketing shots from Faf du Pleissis who scored 65 of 38 deliveries, South Africa looked dangerous.

Interesting to watch during the match were the Pakistani fans who kept supporting the Proteas and with every hit to the fence, they went up in unison, waving their national flag and shouting Pakistan Zindabad.

For India to qualify for the semis, South Africa had to restricted below 121 runs and for Pakistani fans, 121 was the winning target for Pakistan (read South Africa). While Indian fans silenced in disbelief, Pakistan fans went up in celebration as South Africa crossed the 121-run mark, cementing Pakistan’s place in the first semifinal to be played on Thursday against hosts Sri Lanka.

The action didn’t stop there as the match witnessing ups and lows till South Africa needed two runs from last 2 balls with just one wicket in hand. Needing 14 runs from the last over, Albie Morkel hit Balaji for a towering six on the very first delivery. But, on the next delivery, he played on to his stumps, forcing his brother Morne Morkel, the last man to take the crease. Balaji deceived him with a slower one – a dot ball but on the very next delivery, he hit the ball into the crowd over deep-square leg for a six, adding to the frustration of Indian players. Balaji had the last laugh as he hit the timber of Albie on the final delivery, helping India score one-run victory over South Africa.

Though South Africa were already out of the tournament but thanks to their powerful batting and some not so right decisions by the Indian skipper Dhoni, Proteas managed that India also packed the bags, despite the win. One thing that Dhoni might be questioned about was not letting his main and talented spinner R Ashwin bowl early. Only after South Africa crossed the 121-run mark, Ashwin was brought into attack and as later Dhoni spoke in the presentation, he indicated that they needed to win and Ashwin was used to help in that, raising serious questions why he was not brought earlier to restrict the Africans to book a berth in the semis.

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