Indian captain admits to error on attack while his disappointed counterpart Afridi pays tribute to the opponents and reflects on crucial dropped catches.
Dhoni's relief at beating Pakistan after reading the wicket wrong
MOHALI // As the ball soared into the Mohali sky and Virat Kohli positioned himself under it, some of his teammates started running towards the pitch in anticipatory celebration.
Sachin Tendulkar, who has played his part in each of those, was man of the match for scoring 85 runs, leaving Pakistan to reflect on a butterfingered catching performance that left them with too much to do on a pitch where shot making was never straightforward.
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Only three batsmen scored at better than a run a ball, and Tendulkar and Misbah-ul-Haq, who started to find the boundary only when the match had slipped away, were alone in crossing 50.
India had taken a chance at the start, leaving out R Ashwin, the off-spinner, but Ashish Nehra, who came in for him, and Munaf Patel bowled magnificently for combined figures of four for 73.
On a surface where the ball stopped and turned for Pakistan's spinners, MS Dhoni, the India captain, admitted that there had been an error of judgement.
"We read the wicket wrong," he said. "That's why we played three seamers. But they bowled really well. This was one game where we didn't have to use extra bowlers."
Shahid Afridi endured the most frustrating of afternoons, seeing Tendulkar dropped no less than three times off his bowling.
With the bat, he flailed briefly, but the hand-eye co-ordination isn't what it once was and a wild swipe ensured that there would be no third final for Pakistan.
"I'd like to congratulate the India team and the nation," he said afterwards, striking a diplomatic tone in the presence of the two prime ministers.
"But my boys have done a great job, and I'm proud to be their captain."
It could have been so different if Pakistan had held their chances. Wahab Riaz, uncertain of his place on the eve of the game, struck in each of his three spells and bowled with venom and purpose throughout.
"When we got [Virender] Sehwag, I thought it was the right time to put some pressure on," said Afridi. "Sachin was lucky as well."
First dropped on 27 and then when he had 45, 70 and 81, Tendulkar capitalised to secure himself a final in his home city. "Going back to Mumbai is wonderful," he said.
"We want to be calm and focused and get the job done."
Tendulkar said that the batsmen had readjusted expectations after a breathtaking start from Sehwag. "Initially, Viru gave us a flyer. But the pitch slowed down and it wasn't easy to score. We just had to play out the overs.
"But we kept losing wickets. Overall, I thought it was a fighting total and [Suresh] Raina played something special. Those runs at the end were important for us."
Pakistan started brilliantly and the game probably turned on a daft shot from Mohammad Hafeez after he had been untroubled on his way to 43. A premeditated scoop over fine leg off Munaf merely found the edge and Dhoni's gloves.
"We don't have any fast bowlers," Dhoni said. "Our pacers tend to rely on deception, and changes in length and line."
Pakistan will also reflect on Umar Gul, their spearhead who was well off the pace.
Sehwag took five fours in an over, and he conceded 24 in two power-play overs.
The 10 that he and Abdul Razzaq bowled went for 83, on an afternoon where none of the others conceded more than 4.6 runs an over.
"It was our dream before the start of tournament [to reach the final]," Dhoni said. "We knew it was important to peak at the right time.
"In almost every game, we've had to struggle. We have chased some decent scores, and also batted first. Everyone in the side has been tested. We're ready for the final."
Tendulkar against Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan in a World Cup final. Something to savour.
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