They left it late, but India eventually gave their supporters extra cause for celebration on Diwali, with a three-wicket win over Zimbabwe in Sharjah tonight. It was not a flamboyant victory, but a nervy, self-conscious one, and they only secured their place in the final in the 49th over.
India had looked in control of the match after a disciplined fast bowling performance, which had restricted the Zimbabweans to 218 in their first innings. With the wicket true, the bowling relatively innocuous, and the dew set to descend - Zimbabawe's chances looked slim.
However, Zimbabwe have repeatedly shown themselves to be tenacious souls. Unsurprising, given that they have a professional hunter in their midst's. Heath Streak gambled in the opening overs by holding himself back and entrusting the new ball to Travis Friend: a young man with a bright future and high, easy action.
Friend responded to the challenge with two wickets in his third over. The prize one was Sachin Tendulkar (4), who pushed limply to first slip. The second may have been less prestigious but still gratefully received as, Sridharan Sriram (0), who replaced the injured Rahul Dravid, hooked down to long leg.
The Zimbabwean's sensed a chance where, previously, there had been none. The fielding became electric and bowling tight. Vinod Kambli, a man with huge pressure on his shoulders, looked nervous and shuffled alarmingly across his stumps.
However, Sourav Ganguly steadied the innings with a typically elegant 66 from 98 deliveries. Vinod Kambli settled and the pair put 106 runs for the third wicket as the second string bowlers eased the pressure and the evening dew made the ball difficult to grip.
Then,just when the match looked won, Travis Friend returned to the attack and Ganguly carved him straight to third man. Three overs later Yuvraj Singh (3) belied his inexperience as he picked out the only fielder on the leg-side boundary. Robin Singh (7) then ran himself out as Grant Flower fielded off his own bowling and Kambli, who had returned to form with 60 runs from 76 balls, top edged a pull from a rank long hop. India were suddenly under pressure on 158 for 6, with just 12 overs remaining.
India were then saved by their plucky wicket-keeper, Daihya (20), and Sunil Joshi (25*), no stranger to such situations, who put on 42 runs to swing the game, finally, away from Zimbabwe.
Earlier in the day Aliaster Campbell scored the century he has been threatening in recent times. With two nineties in Bulawayo against New Zealand still fresh in his mind, one of which was a 99, he scored 105 from 133 balls and batted throughout a disjointed Zimbabwean innings.
The top order had looked like they had laid the foundations for a competitive total with Paul Strang scoring a quick 17 before Stuart Carlisle put on 50 with Alaister Campbell. However, Yuvraj Singh seized the moment with a brilliant run out from backward point and the Indian bowlers then applied the brakes. The batsmen were never able to get on top of the bowlers, and, with Zaheer Khan nipping out the late middle order with a brace of yorkers, Zimbabwe could only muster 218.