| Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni celebrates India’s victory. The team will lead a victory march from Mumbai airport to Wankhede stadium when it returns on Wednesday. At the stadium, BCCI chief Sharad Pawar will receive the players and hand them $3 million (Rs 12 crore) in prize money. Yuvraj Singh will get an additional Rs 1 crore for his six straight sixes and the support staff will get Rs 15 lakh each. (AFP)
The nation has new heroes after India rose from the canvas to win the ICC World Twenty20 final in Johannesburg.
A total of 157 for five, which India scored after Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and chose to bat, seemed unlikely to escape the reach of Pakistan’s rangy batsmen. But that was not to be and Pakistan was dismissed for 152 in the final over as India surged to an unforgettable five-run win.
The ice-cool Irfan Pathan might just lead India’s new honour roll after dismissing Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi in the same over on his way to figures of three for 16.
Save some room, too, for R.P. Singh, who delivered another masterclass in swing bowling to claim three for 26.
Gautam Gambhir’s defiant 75 aside, none of the batsmen India has come to depend on these last two weeks came to the party.
Virender Sehwag didn’t even bother to open the invitation, ruled out as he was by his lingering groin strain. The debut of his replacement, Yusuf Pathan, might not have lasted a single ball. He wavered when Gambhir punched Mohammad Asif’s first delivery — the first of the match — into the covers, and narrowly avoided being run out by the direct hit.
Might that have been an omen for what followed' Pathan sent the fourth ball of that first over arching straight down the ground for six. But in Asif’s next over, Pathan failed to lay enough bat on a lofted on-drive and was caught at mid-wicket.
Little did India know then that Pathan’s 15 would be their third highest score. Robin Uthappa was gone for eight in the sixth over when he skied a ball from Sohail Tanvir. Yuvraj Singh top-edged a meaty swipe at Umar Gul and presented the bowler with a looping return catch. That saw dismissed Yuvraj for just 14, but at least the King of Kingsmead managed to grace the Wanderers long enough to share a stand of 63 with the worthy Gambhir.
Gul struck again in his next over when Dhoni tried to smash him all the way to Pretoria and was bowled for six. At 111 for four in the 16th over, it seemed India might dwindle to a miserable total.
But there was backbone to come in the shape of the nuggety Rohit Sharma, who clipped his unbeaten 30 off 16 balls.
Gambhir eked out a stand of 19 with Sharma before he swept confidently at a ball from Gul only to discover to his horror that Asif had been stationed at short fine leg for just that stroke and had clung to a useful catch. Gambhir’s sound innings lasted 54 balls and included eight fours and two sixes.
The Pakistan dressing room must have been confident of victory in the 10 minutes between innings. Then R.P. Singh had Mohammad Hafeez (1) taken at slip and bowled experimental number three Kamran Akmal (0) in his first two overs.
Imran Nazir bristled with aggression to score 33 off 14 balls before he was removed by Uthappa’s brilliant direct hit from mid-off. Younis Khan (24) also looked dangerous before steering a ball from Joginder Sharma into mid-on’s hands.
Irfan Pathan’s double strike came in the 12th over when he had Shoaib (8) taken at midwicket. Then Afridi heaved the first ball he faced down mid-off’s throat.
Having reduced Pakistan to 77 for six in the 12 th over, India were back in the saddle.
But Misbah-ul-Haq (43) changed all that. He made steady progress towards the target, hitting Harbhajan Singh for three sixes in a 17 th over that yielded 19 runs.
Pakistan required a fateful 13 runs from the final over, and Misbah eased that equation when he hit Joginder Sharma’s second ball for six.
Sharma looked like he’d rather be anywhere else on earth as he wobbled in to bowl his next delivery.
Misbah lunged towards the off-side to try and flick the full ball over his shoulder.
The ploy failed as the ball climbed into the darkening sky. At short fine leg Sreesanth waited …
When the ball finally came down Sreesanth juggled once, then hung on.
A disbelieving Misbah ended up on his knees in the middle of the pitch as all around him and in the stands beyond, India celebrated their triumph.