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India vs Pakistan World Cup Semi-Final Preview

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The second finalist at the 2011 Cricket World Cup will be decided on Wednesday when political rivals and uneasy neighbours India and Pakistan meet in their semi-final in Mohali.Can India reach the final?>

Four years ago both these sides knocked out in initial group stage of the World Cup, so this is an opportunity for one of them to right their wrongs and reach the World Cup final and go a step closer to achieving redemption.

Of course, India recently made the World Cup final in 2003, losing to Australia, while Pakistan did exactly the same four years earlier in 1999.

But the current climate of this game has provoked quite the stir, with plenty of political tensions being aroused. This game will bring both nations to a standstill with more than a spot in the World Cup final at stake.

India head into the contest as the favourites given their pedigree but Pakistan are an unpredictable who have shown their brilliance during the tournament.

So the question is, who can claim a place in 2011 final?

*IndiaGroup performance2nd in Group B, 4 wins, 1 loss, 1 tie*Results’

India 370/4, Bangladesh 283/9, India won by 87 runs India 338, England 338/8, match tied Ireland 207, India 210/5, India won by 5 wickets Netherlands 189, India 191/5, India won by 5 wickets India 296, South Africa 300/7, South Africa won by 3 wickets India 268, West Indies 188, India won by 80 runs

Quarter Final Australia 260/6, India 261/5, India won by 5 wickets India didn’t have it all their way with the ball, as Ricky Ponting scored a century to help Australia to a reasonable 260/6. Yuvraj Singh was economical and dangerous with the ball with 2/44 off 10 overs, before he helped his side to victory with the bat. Earlier Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir had scored half-centuries, before Singh (57 not out) and Suresh Raina (34 not out) finished off the job with 14 balls to spare.

Statistics Most runs; Sachin Tendulkar (379), Virender Sehwag (342), Yuvraj Singh (341) Best batting average; Yuvraj Singh (113.67), Virender Sehwag (57), Sachin Tendulkar (54.14) Most wickets; Zaheer Khan (17), Yuvraj Singh (11), Munaf Patel (9)

The Good The Little Master to deliver again> India’s batting line-up is outstanding with Sachin Tendulkar leading the line. In all five of their World Cup matches against Test playing nations they’ve scored over 260 runs in a sign, so they’ve got depth.

Opener Virender Sehwag has been a tad inconsistent but is in ominous averaging 57, while Gautam Gambhir has three half-centuries but the biggest revelation has been Yuvraj Singh.

Singh’s form with both the bat and ball has enabled India to really press this tournament. He’s managed 341 runs and only been dismissed three times, while he’s picked up 11 wickets, fairly economically. Singh is a key man for India.

Zaheer Khan’s pace has also been crucial for India and he’ll be relied upon to get at Pakistan’s openers. Khan has 17 wickets this tournament with a tidy economy rate of 4.5. India also have caused opponents trouble with their slow bowlers, who have been fairly economical and they’ll play a role.

The Bad India’s over-reliance on Zaheer Khan to take the wickets is a concern, particularly if he can’t break through. England and South Africa chased big scores against India, and they’ll need to find avenues to restrict those runs, and wickets usually helps. That Yuvraj Singh has their second most wickets this World Cup highlights the fact Harbhajan Singh and others haven’t been dangerous enough.

India’s fielding is another weakness, with the side lacking the intensity required at the top level. In a semi-final where there will be fine margins, they need to step it up a notch in the field. We saw New Zealand turn their quarter-final against South Africa with a fine catch and run out, and these things can often be the difference.

Finally, skipper MS Dhoni’s form with the bat isn’t flash. He is averaging 31.25 for the tournament but hasn’t scored a half-century with a top score of 34 coming against Ireland. His failure against Australia emphasised his problems.

The Captain MS Dhoni said the hype of the contest wasn’t getting to his side. He said: “It should not be affecting us really because we all know it is a big tournament and we have prepared a lot for it. We are playing the semi-finals. The most important thing is how you prepared yourself irrespective of what is happening around you. And that is what we have been doing in the past few days.”

Dhoni said his side knew how to handle the pressure of the situation. He said: “When you talk about hype, pressure etc., one thing is sure: whether you are thinking about it, or not thinking about it, I don’t think it really helps you perform. So what is not helping you perform needs to be kept away.”

Pakistan's bowlers are the key>

*PakistanGroup performance1st in Group A, 5 wins, 1 loss*Results’

Pakistan 317/7, Kenya 112, Pakistan won by 205 runs Pakistan 277/7, Sri Lanka 266/9, Pakistan won by 11 runs Pakistan 184, Canada 138, Pakistan won by 46 runs New Zealand 302/7, Pakistan 192, New Zealand won by 110 runs Zimbabwe 151/7, Pakistan 164/3, Pakistan won by 7 wickets Australia 176, Pakistan 178/6, Pakistan won by 4 wickets

Quarter Final West Indies 122, Pakistan 123/0, Pakistan won by 10 wickets Pakistan romped to an emphatic win over the West Indies in their quarter-final with Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Gul doing the damage with the ball early to the top-order, before Shahid Afridi ripped through them to finish with 4/30. The Pakistan openers – who had struggled earlier in the tournament - then eased to victory inside 21 overs, with Hafeez completing a star performance with 61 not out.

Statistics Most runs; Umar Akmal (211), Misbah-ul-Haq (192), Kamran Akmal (188) Best batting average; Asad Shafiq (124), Umar Akmal (52.75), Kamran Akmal (37.6) Most wickets; Shahid Afridi (21), Umar Gul (14), Mohammad Hafeez (7)

The Good Pakistan’s bowling variety has been a key to their success this World Cup, with Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi the chief destroyers, while Mohammad Hafeez and Abdul Razzaq has provided good economical support. Dismissing quarter-finalists Australia for 176 and the West Indies for 122 highlights this point.

Pakistan have shown a rare togetherness throughout this tournament and a lot of people attribute that to the surprisingly impressive leadership of skipper Shahid Afridi. Players such as opener Mohammed Hafeez has been out of form, but Afridi has backed them and he has come good.

And Afridi himself has led by example with his outstanding haul of 21 wickets this tournament. His form as the World Cup’s leading wicket-taker has been crucial to their success.

The Bad Can Afridi inspire Pakistan to the final?> Pakistan have only twice scored only 200 in this tournament and while that’s partly down to the damage the bowlers have done bowling first, it’s also to do with their batting struggles. We shouldn’t forget they were bowled out for just 184 against lowly Canada.

There have been issues with their top-order, with Ahmed Shehzad now out of the team, with keeper-batsman Kamran Akmal promoted to open the batting. None of the Pakistan batsmen have convinced - maybe with the exception of Umar Akmal who is averaging over 50 – with no centuries coming from this side. Their batting is a weakness, no doubt.

There’s also an issue of bowling depth if Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi don’t fire, because the question becomes who’ll take the wickets. Thankfully for Pakistan those two have been brilliant this tournament, but does this issue mean the out-of-sorts Shoaib Akhtar gets a chance?

The Captain Shahid Afridi said: “The main thing is if you know how to handle the pressure, you don’t need to panic in it. We are enjoying our cricket because we are not the most favourite team in this competition. India is the most favourite team. We have played above our expectations. So we are very confident.”

Speaking about the significance of the match for his nation (particularly after the spot-fixing scandals), Afridi said: “It is very important. This World Cup matters a lot for us because we are trying to bring cricket back home.”

Sports Pundit prediction; India’s batsmen to guide them to a good win.

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