Mother of all cricket matches few hours away

World Cup cricket semi-final Pakistan Vs IndiaMOHALI: The news from Mohali is that it’s been raining here for hours and that Shoaib Akhtar is ‘highly unlikely’ to feature in what is being described as the ‘mother of all matches’.

As security personnel were making a final check at the PCA Stadium ahead of Pakistan’s World Cup semifinal clash against India, a dust storm lashed Mohali and adjoining areas. It was followed by rain and thunderstorm.

Rain is good news for Pakistan. If it does rain enough to wash out the day’s play today, then there is a reserve day — Thursday — when the match can be played. If rain also washes out play on the reserve day, then the rain rule states that, “If following a tie, weather conditions prevent the one over eliminator from being completed, or if the match is a no result, then the team that finished in the higher position in the Group stage shall proceed to the final.”

In that case Pakistan, since they topped Pool A, will progress to Saturday’s final. However, the unseasonal downpour is unlikely to affect today’s match with the meteorological department forecasting a partly cloudy sky to prevail in this region with a little chance of light rain by Wednesday evening.

Tuesday night’s rain could add juice to the Mohali pitch that was earlier expected to be batting friendly. It is expected that it could assist pacers more with all the moisture in it at least for the first hour or so.

Meanwhile, just before the sudden showers, Pakistan had their pre-match meeting over dinner at The Taj in Chandigarh. Though a decision over the possible inclusion of Shoaib Akhtar was delayed till this morning, a well-placed source told The News that it was highly unlikely that the maverick pacer will be included in the playing eleven.

That means Pakistan are likely to take the field against India with an unchanged team. India, too, seem set to retain the same team that helped them conquer Australia in the quarterfinals though team sources have said the management has mulled the possibility of bringing in left-arm pacer Asish Nehra and even allrounder Yusuf Pathan.

Pakistan were in an upbeat mood on Tuesday even though Shahid Afridi, their captain, declared India as the favourites Pakistan have already punched above their weight to march into the World Cup semifinals with an enviable ease and are now looking for a win against the Indians.

At this World Cup, Pakistan have overcome two of the pre-tournament favourties — Sri Lanka and Australia — and they are now looking to scalp the Indians. It’s a gigantic task, but Shahid Afridi is confident his troops can achieve it.

“It’s our dream to win the World Cup and tomorrow we hope to take a big step towards by beating India,” Afridi told The News on Tuesday. Afridi heaped praise on his players, saying that they were itching to take the field for the high-pressure match. “A few of the players are playing really mature cricket especially youngsters like Umar Akmal and Asad Shafiq. They have been waiting for this game,” he said.

Afridi and his men will have to tackle a strong Indian batting line-up that is spearheaded by the great Sachin Tendulkar. All eyes will be on the little master, who will be looking for his 100th international hundred. The master blaster has featured in all four of India’s World Cup wins against Pakistan, scoring 54 not out, 31, 45 and 98.
Off the field, India is in a complete frenzy.

In Mohali and the adjoining cities of Chandigarh and Panckhula, it seems everybody is obsessed with the idea of getting hold of a match ticket. The Tricity has become the nerve centre of India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani will be flying in to hold talks on the sidelines of the semifinal. Business tycoons and Bollywood starts are bringing their private jets here. All roads, it seems, lead to Mohali.

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Pak prayers, prizes for win over India

Chacha Pakistani..KARACHI: Thousands of Pakistanis are expected to take part in mass prayer sessions, asking Allah Almighty to guide them to victory against India in the hotly anticipated World Cup cricket semi-final on Wednesday.

On the eve of the match, around 1,200 people congregated in the Jamia Binoria madrassa in Karachi, reciting the Quranic verses in its glossy-tiled mosque before loudly praying for victory in the epic encounter.

“Our boys (in the cricket team) are highly talented and God-fearing, which is why we have gathered here to pray for their success,” said Mufti Mohammad Naeem, the head of the madrassa.

Pakistan have not beaten India in any of their four previous World Cup matches dating back to 1992.

Tapping into the hysteria that India can inspire in Pakistan, seminary pupil Wali Ahmed, 18, claimed the prayer was a fitting reply to “black magic”. “We pray to Allah to make our team victorious and foil the black magic and occult being exercised by the Indians to beat us,” said an enthusiastic Ahmed.

“Everything occurs with the will of Allah, so it is necessary to pray for everything which we strive to succeed in,” said local resident Mushtaq Ali.

Similar congregations were convened in mosques of southern city Hyderabad.

Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab, promised each team member 25 acres of land if they beat India at Mohali.

“The Punjab government will give 25 acres of fertile land to each member of the team as a prize if they beat India,” Sharif told journalists. Sharif said the whole nation will pray for Pakistan’s win.

“Our team deserves appreciation from the nation for displaying outstanding performance in different matches of the World Cup and the whole nation will be praying for its success,” said Sharif, an avid follower of the game.

Various organisations have announced special prayers for the team in Lahore, Karachi and Quetta, with thousands of people expected to attend. (AFP)

Pak team arrives in Delhi for Mohali match

Pakistan Cricket TeamNEW DELHI: Pakistan cricket team reached here to play their arch rivals India in the semi-finals of the World Cup 2011.

The team left Dhaka this morning for the Indian capital from where it will go to Mohali where the semi-finals will be played on March 30.

Captain Shahid Afridi said, while talking with Geo News before the departure at the Dhaka airport, that Indian team is difficult but his players’ morale is high.

Pakistan team will stay at Delhi for a few hours then proceed to Mohali.

Pakistan outplay Windies to storm into semis

Pakistan Won the Quater-Final
DHAKA: Pakistan thrashed West Indies by ten wickets to move into the World Cup semi-finals here at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur on Wednesday.

Chasing an easy target of 113 runs, openers Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez completed the Pakistan victory without being separated, in just 20.5 overs.

Kamran contributed 47 and Hafeez 61 as both made 113 runs together, Pakistan’s biggest opening stand of this tournament.

Earlier, batting first after winning the toss, the West Indies could not resist against the Pakistan spin attack, led by Shahid Afridi, and were bundled out for 112 in 43.3 overs.

Leg-spinner Afridi, already the tournament’s leading wicket-taker, took his tally to 21 as he finished with four for 30, including two wickets off successive balls.

Off-spinners Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal claimed two wickets each for 16 and 18, respectively, while pacers Umar Gul and Abdul Razzaq took a wicket each.

Veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul, brought back to the team after being dropped in the previous match against India, was the only batsman to defy the spinners with a dour unbeaten 44 off 106 balls.

Except Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan (24) and Kemar Roach (16), no West Indian batsman could get into double figures

The West Indies were reduced to 71-8 before a 40-run stand between Chanderpaul and Roach, which helped the former champions surpass their lowest World Cup total of 93 against Kenya in Pune in 1996.

The West Indies never recovered from the disastrous start when they lost three top batsmen, Chris Gayle, Devon Smith and Darren Bravo, by the sixth over.

Gayle, returning to the side after recovering from an abdominal strain, made eight when he drove Umar Gul to mid-off where Afridi accepted the catch.

Hafeez, who shared the new ball with Gul, trapped Smith and Bravo leg-before in the space of four deliveries to open up the middle-order.

Shell-shocked by the early reverses, the West Indies groped to 36-3 after 15 overs, with Chanderpaul making just three runs off his first 27 deliveries.

Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chanderpaul put on 42 for the fourth wicket before Afridi destroyed the innings with three wickets in 11 balls.

Sarwan, dropped by Gul at mid-off when he was on 14, added 10 more to his score before Afridi gained revenge by having him caught at point by Umar Akmal.

Pakistan need 113 Runs to beat West Indies

PAKISTAN vs WEST INDIES, 1st Quarter-Final

Shere Bangla National Stadium, Dhaka, Mar 23, 2011

West Indies

R B 4’s 6’s SR
D Smith lbw b M Hafeez 7 14 1 0 50.00
C Gayle c S Afridi b U Gul 8 9 2 0 88.89
R Sarwan c U Akmal b S Afridi 25 68 2 0 36.76
DM Bravo lbw b M Hafeez 0 3 0 0 0.00
S Chanderpaul not out 44 106 0 1 41.51
K Pollard c K Akmal b S Afridi 1 7 0 0 14.29
D Thomas (wk) lbw b S Afridi 0 1 0 0 0.00
D Sammy (c) lbw b S Ajmal 1 3 0 0 33.33
D Bishoo b S Ajmal 0 3 0 0 0.00
K Roach c Y Khan b A Razzaq 16 43 2 0 37.21
R Rampaul b S Afridi 0 5 0 0 0.00
Extras ( b 0,w 7,nb 1,lb 2) 10
Total (112 for 10 in 43.3 overs) 112
F.O.W: 1/14 (C Gayle, 2.5 ov.), 2/16 (D Smith, 5.1 ov.), 3/16 (DM Bravo, 5.4 ov.), 4/58 (R Sarwan, 24.1 ov.), 5/69 (K Pollard, 26.4 ov.), 6/69 (D Thomas, 26.5 ov.), 7/71 (D Sammy, 27.2 ov.), 8/71 (D Bishoo, 27.5 ov.), 9/111 (K Roach, 42.2 ov.), 10/112 (R Rampaul, 43.3 ov.)

Pakistan – Bowling

O M R W Nb Wd ER
U Gul 7 1 13 1 0 0 1.9
M Hafeez 10 3 16 2 0 2 1.6
W Riaz 6 0 29 0 1 2 4.8
S Afridi 9.3 1 30 4 0 1 3.2
S Ajmal 8 1 18 2 0 1 2.2
A Razzaq 3 1 4 1 0 1 1.3

Pakistan on rampage against Windies

Pakistan Cricket Team Captain Boom Boom AfridiDHAKA: Pakistan bowlers demolished the West Indies three top-order batsmen as the opponents are reeling at 18 for three in their first ten overs in the first quarter-finals of the ICC World Cup 2011 here at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur on
Wednesday.

After captain Darren Sammy won the toss and elected to bat, West Indies openers Chris Gayle and Devon Smith opened the innings, with two fours in two overs but pacer Umar Gul got an early breakthrough dismissing Gayle, caught at mid-off by captain Shahid Afridi for eight and in the next over off-break bolwer Mohammad Hafeez struck twice getting Smith out, lbw for seven and Darren Bravo, lbw for first ball duck.

The West Indies could make only 16 runs during the powerplay in the first five overs and then could score just two in the next five.

Gul claimed one wicket for eleven and Hafeez two for seven in their five overs each as experienced batsmen Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul are at the crease 2 and nought.

Pakistan to stick with winning combination

Pakistan captain Shahid AfridiDHAKA: Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi indicated on Tuesday he would retain the side who defeated Australia in the World Cup group stages for Wednesday’s quarter-final against West Indies.

Pakistan took the field for the Australia match without fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar and opened the bowling with left-armer Abdur Rehman as the defending champions were beaten for the first time at a World Cup since 1999.

“We want to go with the winning combination. We will see, but I think we are happy with this winning combination,” Afridi told a news conference.

Afridi said the victory over Australia had given the 1992 champions a welcome confidence boost before the knockout stages.

“We worked hard before this World Cup. We are taking the practice sessions very seriously,” he said. “I think we are feeling more confident now, it’s a good sign before the quarter-final.”

Afridi paid tribute to his bowlers, signalling out pace bowler Umar Gul for particular praise.

“He was struggling a little bit with his ankle before but I think he is 100 percent fit,” Afridi said.

“He is doing a great job with the ball, especially with the new ball.”

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