Cricket: Tendulkar leads India to WC final

India upstaged archrival Pakistan by 29 runs in the so-called "mother of all World Cup matches" to progress to the final against Sri Lanka, giving Sachin Tendulkar another chance to reach his 100th hundred after his charmed innings fell just short this morning.

Tendulkar had an lbw decision overturned, survived a stumping and was dropped four times amid some atrocious Pakistan fielding en route to an 85, helping India post a competitive target of 260-9 in the face of a career-best 5-46 from swing bowler Wahab Riaz.


Pakistan started well but lost wickets too regularly and didn't build any decent partnerships, eventually being dismissed for 231 in the last over when Misbah-ul-Haq was caught for 56. All five Indian bowlers picked up two wickets apiece.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shook hands with his Pakistan counterpart Yousuf Gilani as they sat side-by-side in a show of diplomacy in a heavily guarded corporate box above the main stand at Punjab Cricket Association Stadium. Congress President Sonia Gandhi celebrated among the masses down near the field.

The fireworks started instantly as people inside and outside the 28,000-seat venue danced, screamed and cheered.

People spilled onto the streets in nearby Chandigarh, where the roads that had been almost deserted during the broadcast were suddenly choked with cars and revving motorcycles, some doing wheelies.

India has beaten Pakistan in all five of their World Cup head-to-heads dating back to 1992 and is now into the final for the third time - having won in 1983 and lost the 2003 decider to Australia in South Africa.

"Really happy the way India turned up today," Indian spinbowler Harbhajan Singh said. "Obviously this was like a final.

"Whenever India and Pakistan play, the pressure is doubled in that match. We did really well. We deserve the win."

When local hero Yuvraj Singh bowled Asad Shafiq for 30, removing the middle stump, to make the total 103-3 in the 24th over, a spontaneous roar erupted across the district.

Yuvraj dismissed Younis Khan (13) in his next over as Pakistan slumped to 106-4, but was then hit out of the attack.

The raucous cheers started again when Harbhajan, from the adjoining Haryana state, deceived Umar Akmal (29) to bowl the 20-year-old batsman and make it 142-5 in the 34th over.

From there, India coasted to victory. When Shahid Afridi went out for 19 trying desperately to lift the runrate, it was all but over.

Tendulkar won the man-of-the-match award and said he was thrilled about playing the final in his home town of Mumbai on Saturday. He is playing in his sixth World Cup, and still looking for his first title.

Kumar Sangakkara's Sri Lankans have already arrived in Mumbai, landing the day after their five-wicket win over New Zealand in the first of the semifinals. The loss continued a sequence of six semifinal exits for New Zealand without ever reaching a final.

The Sri Lankans have already played a match at the recently reopened Wankhede Stadium in the Indian financial and entertainment hub, beating New Zealand easily in a group match at the renovated venue.

The major concern for the Sri Lankans is the fitness of Muttiah Muralitharan, the leading wicket-taker in cricket who is retiring after the World Cup. He aggravated his injured hamstring and thigh but was elated after taking a wicket with his last ball in international cricket on home soil.

Sri Lanka won the last World Cup staged in Asia, beating Australia in the 1996 final at Lahore, and reached the final in 2007.

India hasn't won the biggest prize in limited-overs cricket since Kapil Dev's squad upset the mighty West Indies lineup in the 1983 final at Lord's.

While the subcontinent virtually shut down to watch the match, police across India were active across the country.

Domestic media reported eight people were arrested in Balgaum for being involved in illegal betting on the India-Pakistan match, while police in the capital claimed to have cracked a betting syndicate with the arrest of two men for taking telephone bets on the Sri Lanka-New Zealand match.

But by far and away, the main preoccupation of police in India was security.

More than 3,000 Punjab police officers guarded the stadium, as well as paramilitary personnel and soldiers.

- AP

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