India ends Australia's reign at Cricket World Cup
India ended Australia's 12-year Cricket World Cup domination Thursday, with Sachin Tendulkar leading a star-studded batting lineup to a five-wicket victory which set up a semifinal classic against archrival Pakistan.
The Australians, unbeaten in 34 consecutive World Cup matches until back-to-back defeats to Pakistan and India within six days, slumped to their worst run at the marquee limited-overs event since 1992.
Captain Ricky Ponting answered the critics who called for him to retire or be fired as captain, grafting 104 from 118 balls to anchor Australia's 260 for six, but it wasn't enough to save the defending champions.
Instead, it was the brilliant, but sometimes brittle Indian batting lineup that won out over Australia's raw pace trio of Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait.
Tendulkar (53) and Gautam Gambhir (50) set the course but in a seesawing match, India almost conspired to lose it in a jittery middle-order slide before Yuvraj Singh guided the hosts home with an unbeaten 57.
Tendulkar crossed 18,000 ODI runs en route to his 94th ODI 50, getting a reprieve on 47 when his thick edge off Brett Lee fell an inch in front of Jason Krezja at third man.
He almost got another life on 53 when he edged Tait behind and started walking, but was called back so the umpire could check for a no-ball, suspecting the Australian paceman may have bowled from too wide in the crease. A long review showed Tait's delivery was legal, and Tendulkar was out, making India 94-2 in the 19th over.
The capacity crowd which had screamed and yelled every time Tendulkar scored, was stunned into silence.
The pressure was back on India's batsmen, who'd been heavily scrutinized after three batting collapses in the group stage.
Gambhir and Virat Kohli moved the score to 143 in a 49-run stand before Kohli swatted a David Hussey full toss directly to Michael Clarke at midwicket in the poorest piece of cricket of the innings — until then. It got worse.
After batting confidently to reach his half century from 63 balls, Gambhir got himself run out after a sequence of inexplicable mixups with Yuvraj. India slipped to 168-4.
And when Mahendra Singh Dhoni, playing his 100th ODI as India captain, was out for seven with the total at 187, another collapse loomed.
But Yuvraj held it together with Suresh Raina, hitting the winning runs and earning a man-of-the-match award for his exploits with bat and ball.
"We competed hard, there's no doubt about that we thought we had a chance at the half way stage," Ponting said. "Probably just didn't bowl as well as we needed to bowl."
"It's disappointing that we are bowing out now — we are probably the better team than we showed to tell the truth. We played a reasonable game today but not good enough. Full credit to India the way they played and good luck to them."
Australia's pacemen misfired badly after Australia posted a challenging total in a quarterfinal featuring the world's top two ranked teams.
Apart from the wicket of Tendulkar, wayward Tait gave India too many runs. He conceded 17 runs in his first two overs and his final return of 1-52 from seven overs included two no-balls and six wides.
Shane Watson made the first breakthrough, dismissing big-hitting opener Virender Sehwag for 15 with the total at 44 in the ninth over.
Ponting looked like he might have taken a brilliant catch from a Gambhir prod in the 11th over but umpires referred the decision because the Australian captain wasn't sure and replays showed the ball landed just in front of him.
Tendulkar smacked consecutive boundaries to start the next over from Johnson and was in commanding touch until his dismissal, which leaves him still chasing his 100th international century.
Tendulkar is playing in his sixth World Cup and is yet to win the title — India's only win was in 1983.
Ponting has played in the last four World Cup finals, winning the last three.
He needed a career-saving innings and he produced it with his 30th ODI hundred.
The Australians batted with restraint and caution for the most part as Dhoni constantly switched his bowlers around in short spells.
Haddin (53) put on 40 for the first wicket with Watson (25) and 70 for the second with Ponting before he hit Yuvraj directly to Raina to make the total 110-2.
Yuvraj also dismissed Michael Clarke (8), while Zaheer Khan clean bowled Mike Hussey (3) as the middle order wobbled, Australia slipping to 150-4.
Ponting put on 40 for the fifth wicket with Cameron White (12) and 55 for the sixth with David Hussey, who scored a valuable unbeaten 38 from 26 balls at the end, before he was finally out in the penultimate over attempting a reverse sweep against Ravichandran Ashwin.
It was a dogged hundred from Ponting, who'd who had to fend off speculation on the eve of the match that he'd be forced to retire or fired as captain if Australia lost to India.
The 36-year-old batsman had only tallied 102 in five previous innings here, with a high score of only 36 against lowly Kenya and hadn't scored in ODI hundred in 13 months.
He collected seven boundaries and a big six before turning Ashwin for a single on the leg side to reach his hundred, then immediately turned to where his teammates had risen to give him a standing ovation, waved his bat at them and then punched the air.
It was a necessarily cautious innings from the Australians after they were dismissed for 176 at the weekend against Pakistan, costing them top place in the group.
That led to the toughest quarter-inal against India, and now the early exit.