Mohali: A billion people can exhale. India have won their cricket World Cup semi final match against arch-rivals Pakistan by 29 runs. Misbah Ul Haq was the last man out on the last but one ball of the Pakistan innings. Sachin Tendulkar (85 runs) was Man of the Match.
Before that, on the day that they were playing one of their most crucial matches, some Men in Blue who had a point to prove came good. Ashish Nehra, much reviled a few matches ago, had Umar Gul leg before wicket to grab his second wicket and bring Pakistan to 208 for 9. A few balls before that, Wahab Riaz, the man who played a stellar role taking 5 wickets to restrict India, was the 8th Pakistan wicket to fall. He too fell to Ashish Nehra with Sachin Tendulkar taking the catch. Nehra, written off by experts at the beginning of the match, was also the most economical of Indian bowlers. (Scorecard)
But the celebrations, at first cautious, had already begun at the PCA stadium in Mohali much earlier when Munaf Patel dismissed Abdul Razzak for 3 to get India its sixth wicket. And then skipper Shahid Afridi fell for 19 (of 17 balls). Caught Sehwag, bowled Harbhajan. Pakistan 184 for 7. (Congratulate Team India Here)
Indian bowlers shared the spoils - Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Yuvraj Singh took two apiece. (See Pics: The big Mohali clash)
Munaf Patel got his second wicket of the match in Razzak. Under universal attack for his performance in previous matches, Patel too had a point to prove.
As did local lad Yuvraj Singh who scored a duck, out first ball, during what has to be one of the most crucial matches he has ever played. So he struck with the ball, bowling Asad Shafiq and then scalping Younis Khan in the very next over to get India firmly back in the game.
Soon after, Harbhajan Singh bowled danger man Umar Akmal for 29, with Pakistan looking less than sure at 142 for 5, chasing India's 260 for 9. And India looked in with a very good chance defend its not-so-big-a- score in the second semi-final of the cricket World Cup?
Pakistan began their chase steadily, losing its first wicket only after it had put 44 runs on the board. Since then, openers Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez fell, and then Yuvraj Singh struck.
On the sidelines of the nail-biting match, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a dinner meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani. (In Pics: Sonia, PM, Gilani at the match)
Briefing newspersons after the dinner meet, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said sporting contact epitomizes people to people contact. The two Prime Minsters discussed a wide range of issues, and Rao spoke of the 'Mohali spirit' in India-Pakistan relations.
The India innings saw as much drama as possible in 50 overs. And much of that drama revolved around Sachin Tendulkar, who led a charmed life on his way to 85, surviving two close appeals and four dropped catches before being caught by Shahid Afridi, bowled Saeed Ajmal. Too soon for comfort, skipper MS Dhoni, at 25, fell to Wahab Riaz. (Read: Pak wonder boy Wahab Riaz) | (See Pics: Sachin, the cat with six lives)
Dhoni was Riaz's fourth scalp; he ended with five. Yuvraj Singh was out on a duck, first ball to Wahab Riaz too. Riaz also got the wickets of Virat Kohli and Zaheer Khan. (Read: Statistical highlights of India innings)
The sub-continent came to a standstill as national anthems played and India won the toss and chose to bat first against Pakistan in the second semi-final of the cricket World Cup.
When Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag walked out to bat, almost 28,000 voices rose as one to cheer. A few hours into the match, the cricket has been exciting. There was a collective sigh of disappointment as Virender Sehwag got out after a blistering innings, there were two back-to-back heart-in-the-mouth moments as Sachin survived two close appeals and reviews. Pakistan also dropped him at score 27, 45, 70 and 81. Before finally catching him at 85.
Before Sachin, the dismissal of Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj in rapid succession already had the match in balance. Sachin and Dhoni attempted to rebuild but the tumble continued after Tendulkar's departure. Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and then finally Ashish Nehra, run out on the penultimate ball, fell at regular intervals.
Celebrities, politicos, industrialists are mere fans
Among those on the edge of their Mohali stadium seats are Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and wife, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi, daughter Priyanka Gandhi with her husband Robert Vadra. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha Meira Kumar is there as are a number of ministers. Rahul Gandhi watched the slog overs of the India innings from a non-VIP stand. (Read: Rahul Gandhi a 'non-VIP' during slog overs)
The Ambani brothers, Mukesh and Anil, are at the PCA stadium with their families and Kingfisher Airlines owner Vijay Mallya is watching with son Sidharth.
Aamir Khan and director wife Kiran Rao are representing Bollywood. Also Rahul Bose, Vivek Oberoi and Dino Morea watching some live action at Mohali.
Cricket Dinner Diplomacy
To cheer the Pakistan team, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has led a large delegation to Mohali. The two Prime Ministers met the teams at the PCA stadium before the start of the match. (Watch)
Mr Gilani, accompanied by his wife Fauzia, was received at the defence airport by Union Minister of State for Communication, Sachin Pilot, and Pakistan's High Commissioner, Shahid Malik, among others.
Before leaving Islamabad for India, Mr Gilani thanked Dr Singh for inviting him to the match, and said that he's "looking forward to a great game." He also said he believes "this match will bridge the gap" between India and Pakistan. (Watch: Match will bridge India-Pak gap: Gilani)
The large delegation accompanying Mr Gilani includes controversial Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who publicly warned his country's cricket team against match-fixing, provoking fierce criticism both within and outside Pakistan. The team is using the Taj hotel in Chandigarh as its base.
Team Singh will include Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon. Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, as well as Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi are not part of the official delegation but are attending the game. They are also attending the dinner that Dr Singh is hosting for the Pakistani delegation at the stadium. (Read: Gosht Barra, Tawa ki Machhi for PMs' dinner)
Last week, in a move that surprised many, Dr Singh formally invited Mr Gilani and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to watch the match with him. Mr Gilani accepted the invitation over the weekend.