David Leggat on sport

David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: Tendulkar on verge of history

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Pakistan will ponder long and hard how they threw away their chance of a second World Cup.

Their fielding in yesterday's semifinal was wretched - drop Sachin Tendulkar four times and you deserve nothing more - their batting was dumb, and all a shame as their bowlers had fought resolutely and with skill to peg back India after their whirlwind Virendar Sehwag-inspired start.

So was India's 29-run win at Mohali a bullet-dodging moment en route to a second World Cup title to follow 1983?

They scraped a tie against England in group play, and were then beaten by South Africa when their bowlers could not defend 296.

They have had their thin-ice days during the cup, but this time, with what seemed like most of Asia looking on, they hung on as Pakistan failed to grasp a wonderful opportunity.

Pakistan's botched job leaves Sri Lanka as the only team between India and glory; of preventing MS Dhoni following the great Kapil Dev as the second Indian to lift the trophy.

Yet, Sri Lanka have a royal chance to emulate the boys of '96 when pot-bellied Arjuna Ranatunga and batting magician Aravinda de Silva led them to victory over Australia in Lahore.

For the immediate future of the game and technology's role in it, one incident in India's semifinal might come to be seen as pivotal.

Tendulkar was given out lbw to classy offspinner Saeed Ajmal, by umpire Ian Gould on 23. He and partner Gautam Gambhir had a chat, then sought a review.

Tendulkar survived; Gould, one of the better umpires, was left shaking his head as the ball-tracking line on screen bent away outside the leg stump.

India has long fought against the Umpire Decision Review System. Had Tendulkar not been spared by that same technology, Pakistan would most likely have won.

Might this be a landmark moment in cricket technology? Every other country accepts it and wants to use it. India are the only standouts, with Tendulkar known to be among the stronger anti-technology voices.

They have the fattest wallets and therefore an inordinate amount of sway around the International Cricket Council table. If the Tendulkar moment is enough to sway India's thinking, then the game will be the beneficiary.

This was certainly far from Tendulkar's finest innings. He was dropped on 27, 45, 70 and 81, as well as surviving both the Ajmal lbw and a stumping off the next ball, smart work by wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal failed by a blink to remove Tendulkar.

So Tendulkar goes home to Mumbai, back at the Wankhede Stadium, still sitting on 99 international centuries, 51 in tests, and having totted up his 47th and 48th during the tournament against England and South Africa.

What chance of the 100th arriving tomorrow night? The 37-year-old's sense of history, and his place in it, will be sharp.

But Sri Lanka will be up for it.

They have terrific top-order batting - opener Tillakaratne Dilshan, with 467 runs, is the only player to have made more in the tournament than Tendulkar, and then only by three - and the most varied attack in the game.

Those who have been at the cup attest that their fans seem to have a more joyous attitude towards the whole show. They are no less fanatical than the Indians but seem to possess a healthier attitude towards the issue of victory and defeat.

For India there can be only one outcome.

Sri Lanka also have their own Tendulkar, in a sense, with Muttiah Muralitharan in his last game for his country. Victory would be the perfect ending to one of cricket's most colourful and controversial careers.

- NZ Herald

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