Yuvraj Singh, much reviled before the cup, came into his murderous own, as he smote three fours soon after his skipper fell and guided the suspect Raina through the final overs, as India overhauls a Ponting-inspired Australia.
Game, Set and Match, India.
Final word: Ponting has often spoken about how if all three of his pacers fired at one go, any opposition would find it difficult to survive.
But the truth of this World Cup has been that the Australian attack has been one dimensional.
The only match the Aussies fancied their spinners was this, against India, against the best players of spin, and it is all over.
This is one post-match press conference I would give my right arm to be present in.
Yuvraj gets his fourth World Cup fifty; there's also that 100 against the Windies to boot.
If India win this, it will clearly be between him and Afridi for the Man of the Series. And I have both of them in my World Cup XI
Lee is back! And Raina of all people smacks him over mid on for six!!!!
Ever since Dhoni's departure and Raina's entrance, Yuvraj has taken it upon himself.
Not only has he guided Raina in between deliveries, he has also ensured that he takes the charge and shields Raina, new to the crease.
India have scored 33 in 21 balls since the captain fell, and Yuvraj has played the captain in the middle.
The quicks have been operating and Yuvraj has been at his disdainful best, dispatching them to all parts of the park.
13 came off Tait's over and 14 off Lee in the previous over.
The next over from Krejza slows India down a bit, 2 off it.
Everyone was at some point or the other up in the air for that dismissal.
The batsman -- MS Dhoni -- was up in the air, as he slashed at one short and wide.
Then, Michael Clarke was up in the air, as he launched himself -- and latched on to the ball -- at point.
Finally, Brett Lee was up in the air, as he did his ballerina twist and clicked his heals in glee. (I didn't see that happen. But I am sure he did it.)
Dhoni gone. India's tail exposed, starting from Suresh Raina.
This is exactly the point when Ponting will be patting hisself on the back for picking his XI: Raina vs Lee-Tait-Johnson-and even Watson!
There are mix-ups and there are mix-ups.
The former is when there may or may not be a single and the runners falter in either judgment or running.
The latter, on the other hand , is a bizarre exhibition of calling.
The first thing they teach you in school cricket is that it is the non-striker's call if the ball if behind the square. But then, all the responsibility falls on the non-striker. The striker's blind and he has to guide him through the single.
In that sense it was a baffling call from Gambhir, who probably mistook wide slip for third man and called Yuvi, the striker, for a single.
Yuvraj, who might not have made his ground had he responded, stands his ground and Gambhir, after having run more than half the pitch, tries to get back. Run out!
This happened earlier too, and that instance too, it was Gambhir from the non-striker's end who made the wrong call.
After India's win against the Netherlands, I asked Dhoni in the post-match press conference about India's abysmal running between the wickets. (The two Delhi boys -- Kohli and Gambhir were to blame then. There was also the Sachin-Sehwag mixup against Bangladesh as the backdrop.)
With a smile in his face, Dhoni said: "This team has not played together in the last year. That was bad running and it happened here and I hope it does not happen in the knockout stage."
It has indeed happened in the knockout stage, and here's hoping sincerely that it does not hurt the team.
Well into the final third of this match then, and Yuvraj better make up for that run out.
This, as my cricket-loving grandfather would have said, is the 'last recognised pair' at the crease, with all due apologies to Suresh Raina.
80 off 82 balls it is now. And dare I say it is Advantage Australia
Ponting seems to be overdoing this spin stuff.
The fall of Kohli seemed to be the ideal time for an over or two from Tait and Co, but he is persisting with the spinners.
India 158/3 after 31.
They need 103 off 114 now...
That delivery was as bad as any you would see fetching a wicket.
Kohli smacks a waist high slow loopy full toss from David Hussey straight to midwicket in the ring.
These two were involved in a typically old-fashioned middle order partnership, tapping and nudging for ones and twos in their 49 run partnership off 10 overs.
Yuvraj joins Gambhir in the middle.
Suprising as it may look coming from Australia, it is spin at both ends now -- Clarke and Krejza -- and Gambhir and Kohli are happy to work the ball around for singles.
There hasn't been a boundary since Sachin departed in the first ball of the 19th over.
And these two have put on a quick 30 in seven overs at a brisk rate.
There hasn't been a boundary since Sachin fell, and it is more due to the cautious approach that Gambhir and Kohli have employed from there on, more than any great bowling from Krejza-Tait.
Ponting is doing what Dhoni did with Munaf earlier: Getting a few overs from Tait with a new pair at the crease.
India have constantly hovered around the 5 an over mark and an erratic Tait and a newly-introduced Krejza probably make for as bad a bowling combination as we've seen in this world cup so far.
But Tait strikes in the first ball of his second over in this spell.
The umpires, who have caught him step away from the side crease now and then, asked Tendulkar to wait for the review, but the replays showed Tait had both his feet well within the limits.
The master goes for 53, fending a lifter to the 'keeper.
Kohli is in, and it is an all-Delhi pair at the middle now.
Sachin's 50 is up.
It matched Haddin's for aggression and Ponting's for composure.
He seems to have a measure of this pitch, and at the same time has an idea of what it takes to overhaul this tricky target.
The Indian innings is entering that early attritional phase where, for Australia, Haddin and Ponting did really well to get them into the middle overs in a sound position.
The mandatory + bowling powerplays are over, and India are a at a healthy 76/1, Sehwag's reckless pull the only abberation.
There hasn't been much on-field drama till now, as the Indians have looked very comfortable.
Lee's on for over number 16. Will it be, at last, spin after this or is Ponting going to fancy one more burst from Tait?
Drinks break here after 13 overs.
And no, it is not the Motera humidity that has forced the break, but the long strides of Tait and Co. The Aussies have been on the field for well over an hour, and they have bowled 1.1 extra overs (6 wides and one no ball, most of them from Tait, who insists on bursting out of the advertisement hoardings)
At this rate, Ponting is not going to take much of his fee from a match where he has played a stellar role.
Barring Virender Sehwag's fatal swipe where he tried to hit Watson to the moon, India haven't had any major hiccups in these 13 overs.
Surprisingly, Watson has been the best bowler so far, and we still are waiting to see some Aussie spin.
Smart stuff this from the Aussies here.
That fend from Gambhir off Watson popped well short of a scooping Ponting. Ponting, knowing well that he had already wasted one of the two reviews he had feigned ignorance and put the onus on the umpires to take a call.
Had he known he collected it cleanly, he would have gone for a review. But here, he merely looked askance at the umpire.
Replays showed the ball popped well in front of Ponting. he probably was hoping for a favourable replay angle...
Sachin was miffed at this ploy, as he seemed to articulate to the umpires.
If you are unsure, he seemed to be telling the umpires, go upstairs. But if the fielder is unsure, the umpire is within his limits to stick to his decision.
Another day, another match, Ponting would have exhausted his two reviews in vain.
Good theatrics from the Aussies here.
Minor digression here into the political sphere:
We are very curious to know what the youth wing leader of the opposition BJP, Anurag Thakur, the man who led the still-born Tricolour yatra to Srinagar's Lal Chowk, doing in Motera, explaining cricket to Supriya Sule, the daughter of NCP strongman Sharad Pawar, who, apart from being the ICC boss, is also a prominent member of the ruling coalition.
The first ball of the 9th over was a spongy bouncer from the medium pace of Watson and Sehwag, trying out a new shot -- a six to the moon -- top-edges it to square leg.
In the eighth over from Johnson, one kept dangerously low, having Tendulkar doubling up as the ball whooshed past the off stump.
If there was a lesson to be learnt for Johnson, it was to pitch it up further and let the track play havoc with the batsman's mind. But the very next ball, he pitched it short, and the ball sat up like it does in that TV ad, and Sachin swivel-pulled it for four, just like he does in that ad.
In this world cup, Ponting's bowling strategy has been like the South African bowling of 10 years ago: Write down the routine on paper before the match and stick loyally to it, irrespective of the match situation.
He has always opened with Lee and Tait and Mitchell Johnson comes on in the sixth over, either because Tait is so tired that he can't bowl one more ball, or because, hey, that's how we do things...
The fourth ball of Aussie innings saw Ashwin generate unusual turn and Professor Zak confirmed that one end was taking more turn than the other.
Ideal conditions to try either Clarke or Dave Hussey, if not Krejza, who remember is the main spinner in his Aussie sid.
But no, Ponting has written it down and so Mitchell Johnson it will be in over number 6, irrespective of the fact that the openers have been untroubled by pace.
Viru and Sach have seen two overs apiece from Lee and Tait, and they have been hardly troubled. (Real time lesson for Tait, lest he hasnt been seeing videos of Sehwag: On the pads = four to square leg)
How long before the spinner comes on? Ponting delayed it till the chase was into the half-way mark against Pakistan. He even defended it later saying if wickets were to come, it was from the pacers.
Is he going to carry on with his pacers, or is he going to introduce either D Hussey or Clarke before the mandatory powerplay? There is Krejza too, but Ponting has almost always held him back till over number 16.
Before the match began, in my update on battles with battle, I said Sachin might well do an Olonga (remember Sharjah) on Tait.
Turns out, he didn't even need that extra savagery against the Aussie tyro.
A caress through the covers gave him his first four, and then he oopar-cut him over slips for a one bounce four.
These are signs that more is to follow...
Lee opens the bowling for Australia as they look to defend a very interesting target.
He pitched fractionally short on the off stump in the fourth ball, and Sehwag stood in the crease and creamed it through cover for four.
THe bounce is good in this end. (In the mid-innings break, Zaheer said one end was slow and was aiding spinners -- the end where ashwin started bowling...)
The last ball of the over, the Aussies were convinced there was an outside edge and asked for a review. Replays inconclusive. No wicket. 5/0 after one over.
It was a great performance by India on the field. The bowlers did their job, barring a few overs from an off-colour Munaf. The fielding was better than usual, AShwin, Yuvi and Raina being the standout performers.
Ponting thinks this total will be good enough. But significantly, it is also a total that the Indians would also be happy to chase.
If you are looking the betting kind, and are looking for clues from the masters, Shane Warne thinks Australia are going to win this by 17 runs.
But Betfiar, the UK betting site, is still favouring India. India are quoted at 1.74 and Australia at 2.30 at the end of the innings, very similar to what they were offering at the start of the Aussie innings.
Whichever way this match goes, Ponting's knock will be remembered as one of those memorable world cup knocks.
See you at the other side of the break for India's chase.
David Hussey, who has been in and out of this side, justified his captain's decision to keep him in for the big match, as he finished the aussie innings with 38 (26)
261 for India to get. Just the kind of target Ponting said will be enough for his bowlers to defend at the toss.
Ponting goes. Reverse sweeping Ashwin! He is pardoned, after his gem of an innings. Reminded one of Jayawardene in the last edition's semifinal.
A good powerplay for Australia, keeping in mind the context. 44/0 off the five overs. That they did not lose any wickets is the key.
Australia look good for another 25-30 runs.
Interestingly, the way Ponting played, he seems confident that this wicket is good to defend 250-odd in.
Shane 'the octopus' Warne has meanwhile passed his verdict on twitter -- Australia to win by 17. What do you say?
Ponting brings up the landmark in the 46th over.
He was happy to bide his time initially when the aggressive Haddin was going well, then he played himself in during the middle overs, and with wickets falling all around him, he has now taken it upon himself to see his team off to a good competitive total.
And remember, he said after the toss that 250 was a good score. Keeping that in mind, he probably has put his team in a good position.
Also remember the way he used to go in the final overs after his 100. Fearsome stuff in order if he stays the course.
20 runs off the two powerplay overs so far, 10 each off Zak and Bhajji.
David Hussey has complemented his captain really well in his short stay at the crease, taking a bit of the burden off Ponting.
The slog is on. Ponting takes the powerplay.
AShwin 2, Zaheer 3, and Bhajji 2.
That is how many overs each has. and there are seven overs to be bowled.
Zaheer comes back and straightaway employs the five-fingered slower ball, and White pats it back to the bowler.
On a day when the Aussie skipper has applied himself in testing conditions to play himself in, the rest of his side, unfortunately, have mistaken that for a sign that they can take the day off.
As we enter the last 10, Dhoni, still mixing it up, has brought Tendulkar again with the field up.
Ponting has soldiered on and Cameron White has played himself in.
But Sachin is getting a lot of turn, and bowls a tidy over, conceding only four off it.
Earlier we saw Sachin bowl, and now it is Virat Kohli!
Dhoni has persisted with his part timers for longer than necessary, but without much damage.
In that Kohli over Ashwin slid his long frame at the extracover fence to cut off a vicious Cameron White slap.
That effort highlighted what has easily been India's biggest high point in this innings. They have been adequate when compared to other brilliant sides. But they have given their 100% on the field, and there have been no singles converted to twos or twos to threes.
Good all round show from India as we enter the last phase of this Aussie innings.
Dhoni brought on Zaheer a couple of overs before the balls change to see if the veteran could coax anything with the old ball in its last legs.
Sure enough, Zaheer, as he has done so often in this tournament, bowled the fast bowlers version of the carrom ball -- fingers wrapped around the ball like the heads of a five-headed snake, and the ball does the rest off the pitch, as it came in fractionally, to beat Hussey's attempt to work it on to the onside. Off stump pegged back. Hussey's dismal world cup might well have come to an end.
This Australian innings has been an exhibition of chain-linked start-stop batting.
Watson and Haddin get a good start. Watson goes.
Haddin and Ponting play themselves in. Haddin goes.
Ponting carries on, trying to allow Clarke to settle. Clarke goes.
Like one commentator says, India have been taking regular wickets.
And that has set up a mouthwatering last third of the match.
Yuvaj and Munaf have done their job and from now on, it will Australia vs India's top three -- bhajji, Zak and Ash. Throw in the prospect of the batting Powerplay and it cant get more mouth watering than this.
Ponting has reached his 50, where he has played the best he has done in a long time. A lot will depend on whether he goes on in the same vein in the last third of the match.
Yuvraj strikes again!
Clarke has been almost invisible ever since he replaced Haddin, and in the 31st over from Yuvraj, more likely in an attempt to hit the ball out of the park and show that he is on the field, he slogs one straight down deep mid wicket's throat.
But more important matters here: Cricinfo's statsguru tells us the last time Sachin bowled was on November 8, 2009. He bowled 5 balls against Australia in Guwahati and went for 11 runs.
Before that, he bowled one over in February the same year against Sri Lanka for 11 runs.
The last time he bowled at least five overs was back in October 2007, also against Australia.
It has been 10 overs since India's top three bowled (Bhajji in the 19th over.)
True, Yuvi has managed to keep the Aussies quiet and has, along with Munaf in his second spell, kept the Aussie run rate in check.
But a wicket is what he needs, and he brings on...
... Sachin Tendulkar.
Can someone tell us when was the last time Sachin bowled in an ODI?!
Towards the end of the group stages, asked what issues India would like to iron out before the knockout stages, Dhoni spoke in particular about the need to not allow new batsmen to settle down.
After Haddin's departure, he brought back Munaf and kept Yuvi on with the field up.
The singles dried up and Clarke and Ponting have been made to work for their runs.
The four overs since the wicket have brought just 12 runs and it has also given the skipper the opportunity to use up a couple of overs from Munaf without worry.
While during the initial matches of this tournament, Watson protected Haddin, the latter has gone from strength to strength as the tournament has progressed.
Against India, he, more than Watson, was eager to take on the bowling, and he has done it with everyone including Ashwin.
Munaf was singled out and Haddin in all probability has batted him out of the attack.
As Watson went early and the out of form Ponting came in, Haddin shielded him too, and allowed him crucial time to settle down.
Soon after reaching his 50 he first miscued Yuvi fortunately into no-man's land, and off the very next ball spooned one to Raina in the ring.
More than his 51, the real value of Haddin's knock lay in how well he took on the bowlers and let his captain play himself in. If Ponting goes on to a big score from here, and he has to, he owes Haddin one.
Before the match started, if Ponting had been given the option of starting the innings at 95/1 after 20, he would have probably accepted it.
Haddin and Ponting have combined really well after Watson's fall and have methodically picked each bowler on merit. They made Dhoni remove Munaf after his first over with a flurry of fours (Haddin) and then targeted the part time spin of Yuvi (Ponting mostly)
They have showed the intent to get on top of India's fragile bowling, and in the process, have challenged Dhoni to bring on his prime bowlers. Dhoni has so far resisted, persisting with Yuvi and bringing Munaf back.
He clearly wants Bhajji, Zak and Ashwin for the final third of this innings, and will probably only use them sparringly in the middle overs.
But the real problem now is whether the others, who Haddin and Ponting have played without any discomfort, can break this partnership, especially with Ponting having played himself in very well.
The Australians have come out here trying to overcome their poor form with serious intent.
Sensing that they are not going to see Munaf Patel for some time now, Ponting settled for the next best target, picking Yuvraj Singh.
First, he skipped down the track and lofted him to the midwicket fence and then a couple of balls later, sat back in the crease and swept him to the same area for his second four of the over.
These two have put on 46 at 5.75 so far. Good consolidation after Watson's wicket.
Munaf Patel's gentle pace would have come as a relief to Haddin and Ponting, who have not looked very comfortable against spin from both ends.
Haddin showed just how relieved he was as picked three fours off that over.
The first was on length outside off and as dispatched to the extracover ropes, inside out.
The second was smacked straight back at the bowler and depending on how you see it, Munaf either did well to save his head, or dropped it.
The third was again on a full length, and was sent on its way to the fence over mid-on.
These two have given respect where it is due but have showed the poor deliveries their place: the ropes.
Yuvraj comes in in the 16th over.
A feature of this Australian innings so far, when compared to their surrender to Pakistan in Colombo and early struggle against Zimbabwe here in Motera, is that they have not tied themselves up in knots like they did against Ray Price and Mohd Hafeez.
They have kept the scorecard ticking whenever they have had the opportunity.
They are looking to get to the pitch of the ball than on those occasions.
Bhajji now to Ponting. He gets a slip and a bat-pad :D
Watch out for this battle, if Ponting lasts long enough for this to evolve into a battle, that is.
Ashwin give the breakthrough!
The introduction of double spin, with Bhajji replacing Zaheer at the other end temporarily slowed down the Aussies.
After Bhajji had given just one run in his first over, Ashwin continued business from his end, and his last ball to Watson was a replica of the one that Haddin had swatted for a six earlier.
Watson's eyes lit up on seeing it, and as he knelt down to despatch it to the same spot as his partner, he realised the ball was slightly flatter this time and missed it completely to get bowled.
The way these two have batted is a sign of early worry for India.
They have been untroubled by Zaheer, and seem to have studied enough of Ashwin to smother him.
Dhoni turns to Bhajji now, looking for a breakthrough.
Haddin says he has had enough of a look at Ashwin, and went to the pitch of a looped one and swung it over long on for six.
Watson is taking the initiative here, giving Haddin the time to settle down. He is taking the better part of the strike, and in the sixth over off Zaheer, timed an on drive perfectly to find the fence.
The openers have started well. No shakiness so far in the first six overs
Ashwin and Zaheer have opened for India, and Watson and Haddin, as they have often done this tournament, have started in an circumspect manner, gauging the nature of the pitch, while also getting a measure of the bowling.
Live scorecard: India vs Australia
Ricky Ponting has won the toss and has elected to bat.
He reckons 250 is a winning total.
David Hussey has come in, taking Steve Smith's place.
Dhoni says the pitch will slow down later on and aid the spinners.
Sehwag is back, and India have kept Raina in and left local boy Yusuf Pathan out!!!
What do you think about it?
India: Sachin, Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvi, Dhoni, Raina, Ashwin, Bhajji, Zak, Munaf
Aus: Watson, Haddin, Ponting, Clarke, White, the Hussey Brothers, Lee, Johnson, Krejza, Tait
13:47 Ahead of the match, Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting said he was not disappointed that the two teams are meeting so early in the quarterfinal. While that may be the way to approach this match as a participant, as a fan, this definitely is a premature match-up. This match deserved at least a semi-final billing if not a final.
This is the Brazil-Argentina of modern cricket, if you will.
Since there is not much we can do about the timing of the match, here are the possible plays and battles that we can look forward to in this match:
Aussie openers vs new ball spinner:
India will most likely open with a spinner -- could well be R Ashwin -- and the Aussie top order is suspect against spin. Should be fascinating.
Indian top order vs Aussie pace:
This is a confirmed problem area, but one reason why India just might prevail is Shaun Tait. Watch out for Sachin Tendulkar. When he faces up to Tait, he would be seeing not a McGrath or a Wasim Akram, but a Henry Olonga or a Shoaib Akhtar back from those two memorable matches where he showed an enthusiastic pacer his real place: Beyond the cover boundary.
Today might just be the day Tait decides to seek counseling for a second time in his short career.
Ponting vs Harbhajan:
If i were the house, I would not even accept bets on Bhajji scalping Ponting. And the situation could not be more loaded in favour of the Indian. He has played the enforcer in this tournament, but is looking for wickets, and what better way to begin harvest than with an out of form bunny?
And the best thing about these battles is that they can go either way, irespective of the form book.