October 13, 2000

Huge total the foundation for India's victory over South Africa in ICC KnockOut semi-final

Saurav Ganguly described the strip used for Friday's ICC KnockOut semi-final as the worst of the three strips played on by India during the tournament. This was probably just as well for South Africa. Had the match been played on a good pitch by the Indian captain's standards, the winning margin might have been even more than 95 runs to India.

Ganguly's 141, off no more than 142 balls, was the outstanding innings of the tournament and it carried India to a formidable 295 for six in their 50 overs. They might have gone beyond 300 but for a final over from Allan Donald from which only two were scored as three wickets fell.

Ganguly said that the pitch "stopped a bit" and South African captain Shaun Pollock confirmed that it had been a little slower than the tracks used in the early matches. You wouldn't have noticed it as India stormed to 293 before their third wicket fell to the last ball of the 49th over.

On the day India earned their place in Sunday's final against New Zealand by batting, bowling and fielding better than South Africa. Neither side reached the standards set during their respective quarter-final matches, but India were a good deal closer to the pace than the South Africans.

Sachin Tendulkar was the senior partner in a 66-run opening stand, but after he had gone for 39, Ganguly gradually started to shift through the gears. Up to the halfway point, the South Africans had more or less been able to keep India in check, but the introduction of left-arm spinner Nicky Boje into the attack in the 25th over was the signal for Ganguly to move into overdrive.

Ganguly carted Boje for three sixes during two overs that cost South Africa 26 and the tone of the innings - and the match - had changed. With Rahul Dravid a willing ally, India were able to add 74 between the 25th and 35th overs and set themselves up for the highest total of the tournament.

Dravid eventually went for 58, but his departure served only to bring Yuvraj Singh, the find of the competition, to the wicket. Boje should have caught Singh when he had one, but the fielder lost the ball in the sun and he went on to crash 41 off 35 balls.

Ganguly, meanwhile, had his slice of luck on 75 when he chopped a Lance Klusener no ball into the hands of Jonty Rhodes at point, but when it's your day, it's your day and only the fact that he couldn't get on strike during Donald's last over probably kept him under 150.

Throughout the tournament captains have been talking about 280 to 300 as par for the pitch and the ground and South Africa didn't believe themselves out of it. They needed a start, though, and they didn't get one.

Andrew Hall was yorked in the third over, Gary Kirsten run out in the fourth, Boeta Dippenaar caught behind in the fifth and Jacques Kallis caught off a leading edge in the eighth. Runs had been coming, but at a price. The score was 50 for four.

There was a 56-run stand for the fifth wicket between Rhodes and Mark Boucher and 55 were added for the sixth by Boucher and Klusener, but the South Africans did not have enough wickets in hand and each Indian success was a further nail in South Africa's coffin.

Ganguly found time to bring himself on to claim Boucher's wicket for 60 and then dropped two successive dolly catches at slip off Nicky Boje who simply couldn't fathom which way Anil Kumble was turning it.

But the match had long since shifted India's way and Tendulkar wrapped it up with the last two wickets in three balls.

There was talk beforehand that India might field an additional spinner, Sunil Joshi, on Sunday, but a virgin strip is to be used in the field and it might have just a little more pace. Changes are not expected in the Indian team while New Zealand are again likely to be without allrounder Chris Cairns in the field.

India will start the final as favourites, but New Zealand were able to wear down Pakistan and they won't mind being seen as underdogs. They're quite used to it, in fact.