Mohali, March 31: It's no secret that India's bowling has been its Achilles' heel throughout the World Cup 2011. It has had to rely on the powerhouse performances of their batsmen to compensate for this apparent vulnerability. But the quintet of Indian bowlers used in their semi-final clash against Pakistan at Mohali surprised one and all with a strong showing. Indeed, all five bowlers came to the fore and bowled as a unit to overpower the Pakistani batting line-up and take India into the finals of the big tournament.
It was fitting that the rot be initiated by the man that has been the lone spearhead for the home team - Zaheer Khan. But it was not all roses for him at the start. "Zak" was flayed in his first couple of overs as Pak openers Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez knocked three fours off him. But then he came back in the his second spell, as is his wont, to fox his hitherto tormentor with a slower one which he played straight into the hands of Yuvraj at point. Kamran was on his way for 19 and India had drawn first blood.
Then, the man who appeared to be losing his verve in the tournament with a couple of barren spells in previous matches - Munaf Patel - reminded his opponents that he was still a force to reckon with. He followed the discipline of a cutting, unwavering off-stump line to tempt Hafeez into an awkward hook which the batsman ended up edging into the keeper's gloves. Hafeez who had only recently struck form in the tournament was out and India were well on the course of a fight back.
The home side went on to wrest the momentum around the middle of Pakistan's innings when Yuvraj effected a double strike in the space of three overs. Sensing Pakistan batsman Asad Shafiq was aiming to cut him, Yuvraj bowled a straight one cramping him for room and thus getting him to play on. Then Yuvi invited Younis Khan with a slow ball outside off and the batman went for a shabby drive, spooning the ball to Suresh Raina at point.
With the score at a precarious 106/4 at that point, Umar Akmal began launching a counter-attack in characteristic fashion and looked set to make at least a fifty. But that's when an unlikely hero Harbhajan Singh, came to the party, to peg back Umar's off-stump with a doosra ripper that completely flummoxed the batsman. India were on top at 142/5.
But there was still some destruction to be caused. And Munaf showed that he had the appetite for such when he castled the dangerous Adbul Razzaq with a leg-cutter to which the clueless batsman played down the wrong line. Then Harbhajan followed by his prize scalp of Umar Akmal with the wicket of the equally threatening Shahid Afridi when he was undone by a high full toss which he sent up into the air and into the hands of Sehwag at mid off.
Ashish Nehra reminded his side and the opponents that he was not just an extra piece of baggage when he dismissed hard-hitting fast bowlers Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul to take India to the brink of victory. And the man that had started the Pakistan slide - Zak - brought the innings to a rapturous end when he had a desperate Misbah caught by Virat Kohli at long on.
How often has one seem an Indian bowling card where all five bowlers used have demonstrated their worth and their eagerness to contribute with 2 wickets a piece? Perhaps, this fateful day at Mohali has sparked a trend where the bowlers come together as a force. And with Sri Lanka's powerful batting line-up itching to have a go at them at Wankhede on Saturday, they had best keep coalescing into a formidable unit.