Colombo: Virender Sehwag and skipper Sourav Ganguly smashed rapid-fire centuries as India crushed England by eight wickets to qualify for the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy cricket tournament here on Sunday. Sehwag set up the victory with a career-best 126 off 104 balls, while Ganguly completed the job with a 109-ball 117 not out as the opening pair made a challenging England total of 269-7 look small with their big hitting.
India, who won the day-night match with 10.3 overs to spare, will now meet South Africa in the first semi-final on Wednesday. This was not the first time India had won a tall-scoring match against England, having successfully chased a 326-run target in the NatWest Trophy final at Lord's in July. England skipper Nasser Hussain's fears about the Indian batting came true as he found that 11 fielders were not enough to check runs which flowed with amazing rapidity from Sehwag's bat. "The problem with India's batting line-up is that you cannot focus on just one particular player," said Hussain before the match. Sehwag, 24, put India on course for an emphatic win with a 192-run stand with Ganguly, who was initially outscored by his junior partner before finishing the job with three sixes and 12 fours in his 19th century. Sehwag toyed with the England attack with a wide range of attacking shots to reduce the rival bowlers and fielders to a state of helplessness during his second hundred. Sehwag, who scored a 69-ball century against New Zealand at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground here last year, raced to his fifty off just 37 balls and the three-figure mark off 77. He smashed 21 fours and one six before giving a return catch to left-arm spinner Ian Blackwell, but not before virtually reducing the match to a no-contest with his bold and clean hitting. The fireworks began early in the innings as Sehwag punished paceman Andrew Caddick for three fours in an over. The Indian offered a difficult chance on three off Caddick, but the ball flew past second-slip Nick Knight. Sehwag's pyrotechnics overshadowed solid half-centuries from England's Blackwell (82) and Knight (50). Blackwell slammed a 68-ball 82 and Knight 50 as England overcame a horror start to reach a fighting total after electing to bat. They were struggling at 7-2 before being rallied by the left-handers. The pair's impressive efforts were pushed into the background as Sehwag went on the rampage, much to the delight of a capacity crowd. In contrast, England wobbled in the beginning before Knight steadied the innings with a 73-run stand for the third wicket with Ronnie Irani (37) and Blackwell produced a flurry of shots late in the innings in his second match. Blackwell, 24, showed a sound temperament in testing conditions to dominate the Indian attack as he shared a 104-run stand for the sixth wicket with veteran Alec Stewart (35). Blackwell cracked three sixes and six fours before being caught short of the crease while coming back for the second run in the last over. England added 79 in the last 10 overs after being rattled by Nehra. It began in Nehra's eventful second over, the fourth of the innings. Trescothick, who scored 119 against Zimbabwe, fell to a splendid low diving catch by Vekatsai Laxman at second slip; Hussain was dropped by wicket-keeper Rahul Dravid; and then Knight survived a run-out chance. Hussain continued to bat dangerously, twice charging down the track to play big shots off Zaheer but missing on both occasions. Tempers frayed as Zaheer exchanged a few words with the England captain, who appeared to have lost his cool before falling to a wild shot in the next over. Hussain lasted 11 balls before top-edging a pull off Nehra to Dravid, who ran to his right to take an easy catch.
Scorecard of Match 11