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We are now at the stage of the tournament where nobody wants to lose. Well curiously if I was going to lose in a knock-out tournament I would rather lose here than in the Final, but that’s just me.

New Zealand vs. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka survived this potential banana-skin Semi-Final against New Zealand in order to make their third World Cup Final, their previous appearances coming in 1996 (victory over Australia) and 2007 (loss to Australia).

New Zealand looked to be one course for a high total, but fell from 192-4 to 217 all out with seven balls of their innings remaining. Muttiah Muralitharan, playing his last ever international in Sri Lanka, did just as he did in his last Test match by taking a wicket with his final ball. The victim on this occasion was Scott Styris who was caught in the leg trap.

Sri Lanka’s reply was steady, with Tillekeratne Dilshan and keeper/captain Kumar Sangakkara putting on 120 for the second wicket. But Sri Lanka slipped from 160-1 to 185-5 by the 43rd over, exactly the same position New Zealand had found themselves in (but for the loss of one more wicket). The match was anyone’s, and that anyone proved to be Sri Lanka who reached the target score without the loss of any further wickets. There was a comedy of errors right at the death which didn’t ease the tension one bit.

Fireworks were set to go off all around the stadium when and if Sri Lanka won, and with less than four needed to win somebody was developing an itchy trigger finger. The fireworks were set off just as the ball which Thilan Samaraweera hit for four was being bowled. ‘Dead Ball’ was called and the winning runs didn’t count, but as we know now Sri Lanka still won.

New Zealand’s long standing captain Daniel Vettori has since stepped down as the Black Caps skipper, but this was the plan anyway. He and his team go back home with their heads held high, but yet again taste bitter defeat in a sixth Semi-Final. They are still waiting for their first Final appearance.

2011 Cricket World Cup (Match 47, Semi-Final 1) – R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, Sri Lanka

New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat

New Zealand

vs.

Sri Lanka

217 (48.5 overs @ 4.44 rpo)

Day/Night Match

220-5 (47.5 overs @ 4.60 rpo)

S.B. Styris 57 (77)

T.M. Dilshan 73 (93)

B.A.W. Mendis 3-35

T.G. Southee 3-57

Man of the Match – K.C. Sangakkara (Sri Lanka)

Sri Lanka won by 5 Wickets

 

India vs. Pakistan

This was more than just a Cricket match. This was (hopeful) the first step on the road to peace for these two rival countries.

On the pitch India, after winning the toss and electing to bat, got off to a flying start and the crowd watched eagerly as Sachin Tendulkar set about trying to score his 100th century for India. Pakistan it seems, were determined to help him out as well. They conspired to drop him on no less than four occasions after he had originally been saved by a correct L.B.W. appeal (he had been given out) and by a fraction of an inch the very next ball when he was almost stumped. Tendulkar fell just 15 runs short of his century, but his innings had set India on their way to a grand total of 260-9 after their 50 overs. Pakistan’s star bowler was Wahab Riaz, who took a career best 5-46 which included clean bowling Yuvraj Singh for a golden duck.

Pakistan knew they could chase India’s total down, and India more than anybody knew that. Pakistan like India made a fast start, but India were sharper in the field and took wickets regularly as some Pakistani batsmen began to crack under the pressure. Even captain Shahid Afridi lost his bottle (and thus his wicket) before he really got going. Pakistan also didn’t help their cause by not taking the batting power play until it was forced upon them. Misbah-ul-Haq’s slow batting also wasn’t what Pakistan needed. They eventually ran out of balls and with a win impossible Misbah-ul-Haq thumped the ball down Virat Kohli’s throat and gave the win and a place in the Final to India by 29 runs. This will also be India’s third Final after 1983 (victory over West Indies) and 2003 (loss to Australia).

Off the pitch the match broke records and helped to close old wounds. The game was watched by a global TV audience of over 1 billion people, putting up there with the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners and the funeral of Pope John Paul II in terms of audience figures.

Elsewhere, in the ground itself, the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan sat together and watched the match. After the games, Yousaf Raza Gillani (Pakistan) and Manmohan Singh (India) pledged to resolve their differences and to cooperate in the investigation into the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

This is why I love sport so much. It can tear down any wall.    

2011 Cricket World Cup (Match 48, Semi-Final 2) – Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh, India

India won the toss and elected to bat

India

vs.

Pakistan

260-9 (50.0 overs @ 5.20 rpo)

Day/Night Match

231 (49.5 overs @ 4.64 rpo)

S.R. Tendulkar 85 (115)

Misbah-ul-Haq 56 (76)

Wahab Riaz 5-46

A. Nehra 2-33

Man of the Match – S.R. Tendulkar (India)

India won by 29 Runs

 

So finally after 48 matches, we have the two teams who will contest the tenth World Cup Final…and it’s an organisers dream.

SRI LANKA

Vs.

INDIA

Match to be played at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, India

 

P92 “I believe India vs. Pakistan at the 2011 World Cup will go down in the annals of sporting history for both its quality and its outside impact.  

Stumpy: “I totally agree with you. Now comes the really hard question: Sri Lanka or India? Murali or the Little Master?

P92: “I can’t answer that. I just hope the best team wins.

Stumpy: “Again my friend I’m going to have to agree with you.

P92: “You can watch the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup Final on Sky Sports 1 from 9am on Saturday 2 April.

Stumpy: “Hold onto your hats, because this is all set up to be an absolute classic.

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