Champions Trophy 2013: India's road to the final

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Thanks to the rain, the final of the ICC Champions Trophy 21013 turned out to be an anti-climax. Would it have been more appropriate had the match been played on a reserve day? Is it not inappropriate for the winner of an ODI tournament to be decided by a T20 match? Was the ICC a tad hasty in scheduling the tournament so that it could accommodate the Ashes? These questions are merely the tip of the iceberg. The ICC has drawn flak for what was clearly not a well-planned tournament. But, all said and done, despite many games in the tournament being cut short owing to rain, the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 saw its fair share of humdingers with the final being one of the best.
Chasing a relatively modest target of 130 on a rain-soaked day, England squandered what was probably its best chance of winning its first ICC 50-over event. The home side started poorly with the bat before Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara anchored the sinking ship with a steady 64-run stand that was broken by an inspired Ishant Sharma, who dismissed both batsmen off consecutive deliveries to arrest the home side's momentum and get India back in the match. Seemingly innocuous actions sometimes have earth-shattering ramifications. Tim Bresnan's overthrow that gifted India four runs with no effort on the latter's part was one such action. With England losing by an agonising margin of five runs, Bresnan is sure to be kicking himself right now.
With an average age of 26, the Indian team was the youngest on the block but the way these seemingly hot-blooded youngsters carried themselves left everyone flabbergasted. It is not to say that the youthful exuberance was totally absent in the camp. But, it was tempered with ambition, commitment and perseverance. The team, bereft of more than half the heroes who took India to a historic triumph in the World Cup two years ago, played splendidly as a unit and were led by a man who seemed capable of remaining oblivious to practically anything once he had fixed his mind on a goal.
With media channels calling for the head of the Cricketing board before the team's departure and Indian cricket finding itself in a soup, it was incumbent upon the young team to bring cricket back in the news for the right reasons. Playing in their first major ICC event after the axe fell on Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir among others, the younger members of the Indian team were aware that they had to justify their inclusion in the squad and make sure that the absence of the seniors wasn't felt acutely. And they managed to do precisely that. Ravindra Jadeja and Shikhar Dhawan, two players who were often bracketed as the stereotypical T20 players incapable of playing the longer versions of the game turned out to be the Heroes while Rohit Sharma finally managed to find his feet in international cricket. Adversity either makes you or breaks you. In the case of the Indian team, it certainly is the former.
Road to the final
India VS South Africa: India wins by 26 runs
Playing in front of a predominantly Indian crowd, the Indian team won this nerve wracking thriller after AB de Villiers and later Faf du Plessis had threatened to take South Africa past the finish line. Dhawan and Sharma got India off to a flier, with the former scoring his maiden ODI ton in the process and Jadeja's blitzkrieg towards the end of the innings helped the team post a formidable 331. The Proteas faltered early in the chase with openers, Colin Ingram and Hashim Amla failing to make valuable contributions and the bulk of the responsibility fell onto the shoulders of de Villiers and du Plessis. Try hard, though they did, they couldn't work the miracle. Despite going into the semi-final against England as the firm favourites, South Africa failed to finish things off and what was even more worrisome was that they failed to shrug off the chokers' tag.
India VS West Indies: India wins by eight wickets
The match against West Indies was little more than a stroll in the park for the Indians. A deceptive spell by India's new golden armed boy, Jadeja, which yielded five wickets laid the foundation for a convincing eight-wicket win. Dhawan continued in his rich vein of form and registered yet another ton with Rohit and later Dinesh Karthik playing the perfect foil to him. By virtue of this win, India qualified for the semi-finals and knocked arch-rivals Pakistan out of contention.
India VS Pakistan: India wins by eight wickets
With just everyone disregarding the insignificance of the match and saying that no India-Pakistan encounter was a dead rubber, irrelevant of the impact it might have on the tournament, the tensions were running high and the crowd at Birmingham too was almost equally divided between Indians and Pakistanis, thereby spicing up the contest. But, the match was a lop-sided contest with India walking all over a demoralised Pakistan side that just struggled to come up with answers against a buoyed and new look Indian side.
Semi-final
India VS Sri Lanka: India wins by eight wickets
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma were the chief architects of India's thumping win against the island nation. Although the former claimed just the one wicket, his nine-over spell, in which he conceded next to nothing and kept the batsmen hopping complimented the bowlers operating from the other end. Choosing to field first on an overcast day, the Indian bowlers made optimum use of the conditions and were at the Lankan batsmen all the while. By going into a shell and playing too defensively, the Lankan batsmen did not help their cause either and by the time Mahela Jayawardena was dismissed, the match was in the Indian's bag and it was only a matter of playing it out smartly from thereon. Coming on to chase 182, the Indian batsmen paced their innings meticulously. Dhawan, with a 48-run knock eased what could have become a tricky chase and made the work of the batsmen who followed him a great deal easier. Ishant took home a well-deserved man-of-the-match award for his probing spell that garnered him three wickets. 

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