Commentary

India wins mistake-ridden match

Updated: March 30, 2011, 6:05 PM ET
By Peter Della Penna | Special to ESPN.com

For anyone who missed this semifinal match, an initial glance at the scorecard would hint that this was another classic between India and Pakistan. The truth is that India made slightly fewer errors in a sloppy and unattractive contest to prevail by 29 runs.

Sachin Tendulkar was somewhat sheepish in accepting the Man of the Match award at the postgame presentation. He was the game's highest scorer with 85 runs, but he should have invited Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and the Akmal brothers to come up and share it with him. They generously assisted his batting with four dropped chances. Each miss generated more cringes than the previous one.

The tone of the day was established early on by Umar Gul. Pakistan needed a major contribution from him to keep India's batting lineup in check, but instead he was missing in action. Virender Sehwag pounced on the terrible bowling served up by Gul early on to notch nine boundaries. Although Wahab Riaz turned in a career-best performance with five wickets, it couldn't make up for the mess Gul and the rest of the fielding unit left for him to deal with.

Mistakes begat more mistakes in the field. Balls were kicked, fumbled, anything but handled cleanly as runs continued to leak. India's total of 260 runs was formidable but not intimidating to the extent that Pakistan couldn't win batting second.

India wasn't great in the field, but it was good enough to force Pakistan into errors. After failing to score, Yuvraj Singh stepped up to take two wickets at a crucial stage of the game. Pakistan was 100 for 2 after 23 overs and well placed to make a strong challenge to pass India's total. But a foolish shot by Asad Shafiq in the next over gave Singh his first wicket, and two overs later, he suckered Khan into becoming the left arm spinner's second victim.

Pakistan still had an opportunity to win, but that was submarined by Misbah. There was no greater lie in the stat sheet from this game than his final score of 56, the most for Pakistan on the day but by no means the best. With 10 overs to go, Pakistan needed 84 runs to win with four men left to bat. Misbah was shouldered with the responsibility to score and score quickly, since he was the last recognized batsman remaining.

Instead, Misbah blocked and defended ball after ball. It defied logic relative to the situation. There was no sense of urgency. He played like a quarterback whose team is down 14 with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter but doesn't want to shift into a no-huddle offense. When he finally decided to attack, it was way too late.

With 10 balls to go, Pakistan needed 31 to win. Misbah started swinging wildly, trying his hardest to hit everything for six, but just couldn't connect. Each failure was another Hail Mary pass that fell incomplete. He eventually managed to be the last man out with two balls to go, and with that, Pakistan was officially out of the World Cup.

Meanwhile, the Mohali crowd erupted in delight as India advanced to play Sri Lanka in Saturday's final in Mumbai. Hopefully, the standard of play will be much better than the disjointed spectacle of the second semifinal.

Peter Della Penna is an American-born and raised cricket journalist who writes for ESPNcricinfo.com and DreamCricket.com. His work has also appeared in "The Wisden Cricketer" and "Wisden Cricketers" Almanack.

Peter Della Penna is an American cricket journalist who also writes for ESPNcricinfo.com and DreamCricket.com. Since 2010, he has penned the USA entry in the Cricket Round the World section of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.
Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterDellaPenna