| Yuvraj Singh (bat raised) and Rahul Dravid acknowledge the cheers after India’s victory over Pakistan in Centurion Saturday. (Reuters)
Centurion: India stormed into the World Cup Super Sixes on Saturday as Sachin Tendulkar braved the pain to set up a six-wicket victory over Pakistan.
Saaed Anwar had scored a gutsy 101 out of Pakistan’s formidable 273 for seven on a perfect batting track but Sachin completely overshadowed that.
He surgically dismantled Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar-led pace attack during a 75-ball innings of 98, shredding not only their figures but their confidence.
The win, with 4.2 overs to spare, gave India 20 points, the same as group A leaders Australia. The third qualifying place will be fought out by Zimbabwe, England or Pakistan and could yet be decided on run rate.
Sachin, punching strokes to all corners as well as a cut for six in Shoaib’s first over, helped put on 100 in 11 overs to wrench back the initiative after Pakistan had opted to bat.
Soon Pakistan skipper Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram were reduced to bickering over field placings while Shoaib, the fastest bowler in the world and who had promised to give Sachin a torrid time, looked shell-shocked as he was blasted out of the attack. When Sachin finally departed, succumbing as much to a thigh strain as to the rearing Shoaib bouncer, which looped to point, the hard work had been done with India on 177 for four.
Needing just under 100 runs, Rahul Dravid (44 not out) and Yuvraj Singh (50 not out off 53 balls) put together an unbroken 99-run stand to shepherd India to a famous victory.
India have never lost to Pakistan in a World Cup, winning all four of their encounters.
Waqar’s side had looked well-placed after their innings, the 34-year-old Anwar providing the anchor as he made a 126-ball 101.
He featured in a 58-run opening stand with Taufeeq Umar and a partnership of 73 with Yousuf Youhana for the fourth wicket.
With 47 runs coming off the final five overs — India’s left-armer Ashish Nehra took two for 74 this time — Pakistan headed for the break with huge smiles on their faces.
Those smiles did not even last 12 balls.
Sachin, taking strike for once in an and ominous gesture, hit a four in Wasim Akram’s first over, Virender Sehwag followed, and they grabbed the game by the neck next over.
Facing Shoaib Akhtar, the 29-year-old right-hander cut Shoaib with an open blade for six over backward point, then flicked the next ball to square leg for four and, next ball, checked a drive through mid-on for another boundary.
Waqar brought himself on to replace Shoaib after his single over only to see Sehwag cut him for six in a carbon-copy shot as the carnage continued.
Waqar raised Pakistan hopes by removing Sehwag on 21, caught by Shahid Afridi off a weak drive to point, and then next ball sending back Sourav Ganguly, leg before for a golden duck.
Sachin, however, continued in the same vein, despite two close shaves. On 32 and with India on 57 for two, he spooned a drive to mid-off where Abdul Razzaq leapt upwards, the ball clipping his finger tips.
Sachin’s biggest problems were coming from a thigh strain and cramp. Passing 12,000 one-day runs — no one else has yet got to 10,000 — he needed treatment. He lost Mohammed Kaif after a 100-run stand for the third wicket, Kaif playing on to Afridi’s wrist spin.
Sachin was dismissed 10 runs later by Shoaib. Having called for a runner and facing his first ball after another break for treatment on his leg, he flinched at a rearing bouncer on the off stump and was caught at deep point. He hit 12 fours and one six.
X-ray for Latif
Rashid Latif had to do the round of the hospital on Saturday when he was hit hard on the helmet by a bouncer from Zaheer.
The blow sent him flat on the ground but he resumed his innings without calling for medical attention. But he did not come out to ’keep during the Indian innings and team officials said he had gone to the hospital for a precautionary X-ray.
Taufeeq Umar took Latif’s place behind the stumps.
PM congratulates team
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee tonight congratulated the Indian team on its spectacular victory over Pakistan in the World Cup, reports PTI from New Delhi.