| Yuvraj Singh celebrates after India beat Australia in Durban. (AP) See Sport
Passion trumped predictability in Durban on Saturday night when India swept to a stunning victory over Australia to earn the right to take on Pakistan in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 in Johannesburg on Monday.
Fifteen runs was what separated the sides after India totalled 188 for five and held the Australians to a reply of 173 for seven.
Could this result signal the end of Australia’s dominance of the game' If it does, we will owe a large debt to Yuvraj Singh, who scored a blistering 70 that lifted India to its challenging total.
Five fours and as many sixes arched off Yuvraj’s bat, and he faced a mere 30 balls. Magnificent doesn’t begin to describe the different ways he found to send the ball on long-haul journeys all round the ground.
Mitchell Johnson, as unassuming a seamer as has dared to call himself an international cricketer, found himself with two prized wickets to his credit, removing Virender Sehwag (9) and Gautam Gambhir (24).
Sehwag took a ragged swipe at a delivery that did not give him as much room as he thought it had and was easily taken behind by Adam Gilchrist.
Gambhir’s dismissal was significantly more spectacular. He sent a ball that asked to be smashed arching towards the square leg boundary, but his timing wasn’t as sure as it might have been and Brad Hodge bolted in from the deep to take a fine catch.
That reduced India to 41 for two in the eighth over, and from the scoreboard roof the fireworks streamed into the night sky to mark the moment.
Little did we know that the fun was just beginning, courtesy of Yuvraj. Brett Lee managed a dot ball with his first delivery to the marauding left-hander.
Lee was not as fortunate with his next delivery, which Yuvraj sent screaming off the top edge some 10 rows of seats beyond the backward square leg boundary. At 119 metres, the biggest six of the tournament.
And so the party started on this Saturday night. Robin Uthappa is perhaps not yet in Yuvraj’s league as a consummate entertainer, but he showed last night that he is well on his way.
Having launched Johnson for consecutive sixes over long-off and wide midwicket, he drilled the next delivery along the ground into the covers.
Somehow, Andrew Symonds sank his hulking frame quickly enough to lay hands on the speeding ball. By that stage, Uthappa was closer to Yuvraj’s crease than his own, and Symonds’ direct hit found him well out of his ground.
Uthappa was gone for 34 and the partnership was ended at 84 runs, which flowed off 39 balls.
Yuvraj remained on the throne for another three overs before not quite murdering a ball from Stuart Clark and being routinely caught by Michael Hussey wide of long-on.
It was the end of an innings that will be celebrated in untold thousands of Durbanites’ hearts, along with the millions in the old country.
Australia’s reply went smoothly until S. Sreesanth skewed Gilchrist’s (22) middle stump in the sixth over.
Three overs later Irfan Pathan pegged the Australians back to 68 for two when Hodge (11) pulled and steered a catch to short fine leg.
That thrust Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds into the fray, and they did not disappoint Australia. The runs never spewed quite as spectacularly as they did during India’s innings, but the batsmen were in control nonetheless.
In the 15th over, Hayden drove big and had his off-stump uprooted by Sreesanth for 62. Symonds followed for 43, bowled by Pathan. Still, Australia looked to be cruising to success.
Then came R.P. Singh’s remarkable over, the 19th, when just five runs were scored.
That left the Australians needing 22 runs off the last over. For once, the task was beyond them. Instead, Joginder Sharma claimed two wickets and a dynasty crumbled.