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Pakistan cruise into semis

NEW DELHI, March 23- Pakistan's cricketers, dismissed as a disorganised rabble before the World Cup, stormed into the semi-finals on Wednesday with a 10-wicket demolition of hapless West Indies.

Charismatic captain Shahid Afridi took 4-30 as West Indies crumbled to an embarrassing 112 all out — their third lowest World Cup total — in the 44th over of their quarter-final in Dhaka.

Leg-spinner Afridi took his tournament wickets tally to 21 while off-spinners Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal chipped in with two each as the West Indies collapsed after electing to bat at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium.

Veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul was the only batsman to defy the spinners with a grim 44 not out off 106 balls.

Hafeez, with an unbeaten 61, and Kamran Akmal, with 47 not out, then saw Pakistan into their first semi-final since 1999, reaching their target with more than 29 overs to spare.

Afridi’s men could next face arch-rivals India if the co-hosts beat Australia in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

"This is a great gift to give the nation on Pakistan Day," said Afridi.

"We tried to stick to our plans and the boys have done a great job doing that. These were great conditions for spin if you landed it on a length."

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West Indies skipper Darren Sammy, whose team have now lost 19 successive times to a top side, admitted batting had let the side down.

"We definitely did not have enough runs on the board. We didn’t counter their bowling well, and we fell well short. We lost wickets in clusters in spin throughout the tournament, and today was no different," said Sammy.

The West Indies were reduced to 71-8 before a 40-run stand between Kemar Roach and Chanderpaul helped the former champions surpass their lowest World Cup total of 93 against Kenya in Pune in 1996.

Besieged Australia captain Ricky Ponting will head into Thursday’s match against India having denied that he plans to quit international cricket after the World Cup.

The 36-year-old, who has been under intense pressure since the Ashes defeat, as well as for his controversial behaviour at the tournament, said retirement had never crossed his mind.

"There’s been some stuff written about me retiring after the World Cup. That’s completely false," said Ponting.

"I’m enjoying my cricket as much as ever. Whatever you’ve read, don’t worry too much about that."

India are sweating on the fitness of big-hitting opener Virender Sehwag for the quarter-final after he missed the group stage win over the West Indies when he suffered an allergic reaction to a painkilling injection in his right knee.

"We are taking a call on Viru in the evening or maybe tomorrow morning before the start of the game," said India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. "Apart from that, all the others are fit."

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Sehwag has scored 7,707 runs including 14 hundreds in 233 one-day internationals at an average of 35.35.

But he has never made an ODI hundred in 27 matches against Australia and he averages a modest 22.65 against the world champions.

Sri Lanka also have an injury worry ahead of their quarter-final against England in Colombo on Saturday with star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan battling a hamstring injury.

The 38-year-old — who has a world record 530 one-day wickets — suffered the strain in the win over New Zealand and only had shortened nets on Wednesday.

But coach Trevor Bayliss said Muralitharan will play on Saturday.

"We are very confident that he will play and I think he’s pretty confident too because he is a guy who’s played through niggles in the past," said Bayliss.

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