| Sachin Tendulkar (left) and Virender Sehwag confer out in the middle at Kingsmead in Durban Thursday. (AFP)
Durban: India rode on skipper Sourav Ganguly’s record-equalling century to enter the World Cup final for only the second time in their cricket history, ending the fairytale run of Kenya in a day-night semi-final here Thursday.
Sourav’s unbeaten 111, his fourth World Cup hundred, propelled the 1983 champions to 270 for four, while the brave Kenyans could muster only 179 in 46.2 overs in their biggest-ever game.
The comprehensive 91-run victory set up a mouth-watering title clash between India and defending champions Australia in Johannesburg Sunday.
Sourav’s third century in this tournament, studded with five fours and an equal number of sixes, put him level with Sachin Tendulkar and Mark Waugh, who too have scored four World Cup tons — the maximum by any batsman. Sourav’s bigger achievement was his third hundred in a World Cup, equalling Waugh’s three in the 1996 edition.
Sachin, who put on 103 runs for the second wicket with Sourav, played another fine knock before falling for 83 — the seventh time in 10 innings in this competition that he crossed fifty but failed to register a hundred.
Later Sachin chipped in with two wickets including that of Kenyan skipper Steve Tikolo, who top-scored for his side with 56.
India’s three-pronged fast bowling attack warmed up nicely for the big match against Australia with Zaheer Khan, Jawagal Srinath and Ashish Nehra sharing six wickets between them. Zaheer was the most successful bowler yet again, claiming three wickets for 14 runs from his 9.2 overs. He now has 18 wickets in this competition, two more than Srinath and three more than Nehra. Srinath took one wicket on Thursday while Nehra claimed two.
The only batsman to put up a fight for Kenya was skipper Tikolo. Leg-spinner Collins Obuya contributed 29 runs while former captain Maurice Odumbe made a quick-fire 19 off 16 balls. The Indians conceded as many as 39 extras including 15 wides.
Sachin and Virender Sehwag provided a sedate start to India before Kenya pulled back in the middle overs with some tight bowling and impressive fielding.
With little pace in the wicket, stroke-play was difficult, and after a good start, Sehwag got bogged down, unable to get his free-flowing drives going. He was dismissed when he miscued an attempted big hit against Peter Ongondo to give a simple catch to Odumbe. Sehwag made 33 off 56 balls and India lost their first wicket at 74.
Runs came mostly in singles and twos as the heavy outfield restricted the Indians’ from boundary-hitting. As slight drizzle started around the 30-over mark, Man of the Match Sourav sensed the likelihood of a rain-curtailed game and started going for the big hits.
The Indian skipper hit three sixes in three overs, two of them in an over from leg-spinner Collins Obuya which went out of the ground. Sachin, who was past his fifty by then, also joined in and came repeatedly down the track looking for the boundaries.
Sachin hit a straight six off Tikolo before falling to the same bowler when he holed out to David Obuya at deep mid-wicket. But Sourav continued his march and raised his 22nd one-day century with his fifth six.
Tikolo stubbornly held on to his end though wickets continued to tumble from the other end. It was Sachin who broke the partnership when he bowled Tikolo in the 44th over. Tikolo faced 83 balls and hit five fours and two sixes.