Colombo: Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly struck brilliant hundreds as India stormed into the Champions Trophy semi-finals with a crushing eight-wicket win over England Sunday.
The 24-year-old Sehwag tore into the England new-ball attack to smash 126 from 102 deliveries for his second one-day hundred as India chased 270 in the deciding pool II game.
The Indians coasted to 271 for two with 10.3 overs to spare to make England’s 269 for seven look far too small.
India will meet former champions South Africa in the first semi-final on Wednesday.
Skipper Sourav remained unbeaten on 117 — his 19th one-day century — having played the supporting role early on as Sehwag cut loose from the start.
The stocky Sehwag had hammered 100 from 69 balls against New Zealand in Colombo last year to register the seventh fastest one-day hundred.
He looked set to better that on Sunday as he raced to 50 from 37 balls, playing stunning shots through the covers and the straight field to leave the England pace attack in total disarray.
The Delhi batsman took only 77 deliveries to reach his hundred, smashing 21 fours and a six in all to collect 90 of his runs in boundaries.
He was eventually caught and bowled by left-arm spinner Ian Blackwell in the 29th over, but that only marginally slowed the Indian victory push.
Sourav hit 12 boundaries and three huge sixes, facing 109 balls and bringing up his century by hoisting Blackwell over mid-wicket for six.
Fast bowlers Andy Caddick, Matthew Hoggard and Dominic Cork all bore the brunt of Sehwag’s assault, which included a slashed six over third-man off Caddick.
The diminutive right-hander’s domination was complete and he had scored 71 of India’s first 100 runs, the captain contributing only 18.
England were left to rue what could have been, after Nick Knight could get only his finger tips to a Sehwag edge at second slip off Caddick in the third over with the batsman on three in a total of six.
Earlier, after electing to bat, England got off to a horror start to be reduced to seven for two. They recovered well and Blackwell top-scored with 82 from 68 balls to build on a patient 50 by opener Nick Knight.
The 24-year-old Somerset all-rounder hit six fours and three sixes and dominated a racy 104-run sixth wicket stand with veteran Alec Stewart (35).
Playing only his second one-dayer, Blackwell got on top of the Indian attack to give England a respectable total that had looked remote earlier on.
He completed his 50 from just 52 balls and took 16 runs, including three fours, in the 47th over from bowled by Ashish Nehra. That over produced 17 runs.
Good early spells
Left-arm seamers Nehra and Zaheer Khan bowled sharp opening spells with the former sending back dangerman Marcus Trescothick for an eight-ball duck and an impatient Nasser Hussain for one.
Knight shared a 73-run third wicket partnership with all-rounder Ronnie Irani, who made 37, to rebuild the innings.
Leg-spinner Anil Kumble trapped Irani leg-before and had Owais Shah (34) caught behind to reduce England to five for 153 in the 34th over after Knight lofted Yuvraj Singh’s left-arm spin to long-on.
It seemed as if India would restrict England within 225-230, but Blackwell provided the power to take his team to a more than challenging total. Stewart, who scored his runs from 44 balls, rotated the strike well.
Earlier, India got off to a tremendous start as Trescothick edged Nehra in the fourth over, V.V.S. Laxman diving to his right at second slip to take a low catch.
Hussain almost went for a third ball duck when he edged Nehra, but Dravid dropped an easy chance. The slip, however, didn’t prove costly.
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