It was a bittersweet night for India as they beat South Africa by one run, but saw their dreams of making the World Twenty20 last four quashed.
India's quest to regain the World Twenty20 title came to a heartbreaking end after they were knocked out of the tournament despite a thrilling one-run victory over South Africa in the final Super Eights contest here tonight.
India needed to win by 31 runs or more, i.e; they had to restrict South Africa to 121 to get their net run rate ahead of Pakistan's +0.273, and oust their neighbours from the semi-finals, but were unable to contain the South Africans.
Dhoni's decision to play without Harbhajan Singh backfired as India missed a spinner.
India made 152-6 in their 20 overs and needed to restrict South Africa to 121 runs or less to reach the last four at Pakistan's expense. In the event they bowled their opponents out for 151 in a thrilling but academic victory.
Pakistan will meet host Sri Lanka in the first semi-final in Colombo on Thursday while Australia, who went through on run rate despite losing to Pakistan, will play West Indies on Friday.
"Overall I am quite happy with how the team performed, but there were instances where we should have had 10-15 runs more on the board. We lost too many wickets early in this match," said Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
South African captain AB de Villiers said his team, who lost all three games in the Super Eights, "didn't click" and had let their country down.
"Disappointed isn't the word to describe it, we've had a poor tournament," said de Villiers. "We've let the country down and that's what hurts the most. We did all the preparation possible, we thought we were ready but the guys didn't click."
Faf du Plessis during his knock of 65. Pic/AFP
Faf du Plessis led the South African reply with an aggressive 65, studded with two towering sixes and six boundaries off just 38 balls.
When he fell in the 13th over with 58 runs were still needed but India's bowlers led by Zaheer Khan (3-22) kept their nerve to record their second win in three Super Eights encounters.
South Africa, who had lost both of their two earlier matches in the round of eight, needed 14 off the last Lakshmipathy Balaji over. Albie Morkel hit a six off the first ball but was bowled off the second.
Morne Morkel also hit a six off the fourth ball but Balaji snatched the win when he bowled the last man with a full-length delivery, ending on figures of 3-37.
Ever since winning the inaugural edition in 2007, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys have failed to reach even the semifinals of the subsequent editions.
The defining moment came when Robin Peterson played a slow bouncer from Lakshmipathy Balaji towards short fine leg as South Africa reached 122 and the sizeable Pakistani supporters anxiously waiting for the moment cheered it lustily.
For India, the magic figure was 121 and the start was a right one. Zaheer Khan bowled a perfect delivery first-up to dismiss Hashim Amla.
At the halfway stage, South Africa were 73 for three and it was literally impossible for India to restrict the Proteas to 121.
Earlier, Suresh Raina scored an useful 45 while skipper Dhoni played a little cameo to help India post a respectable 152 for six after being sent into bat.
It was Raina whose contribution was a significant one as he hit five boundaries during his 34-ball knock. Skipper Dhoni also should be complimented for his 13-ball 23 as it provided the necessary impetus and helped the team cross 150-run mark.
Dhoni hit Dale Steyn for 14 runs in the penultimate over, including two powerfully struck boundaries, which proved useful in the end.
India's trouble started when they lost their top three batsmen within the Powerplay overs and then it was Raina who scripted the recovery act.
Opener Gautam Gambhir started off with a lovely cover drive but Morne Morkel knocked down his middle-stump after scoring only eight.
In-form Virat Kohli got one from Jacques Kallis that reared up and he gloved it for rival captain AB de Villiers who dived to pouch onto a spectacular leg-side catch. Kohli made just two.
Virender Sehwag lofted left-arm spinner Robin Peterson for a huge six over long-on but lost his off-stump trying to repeat the stroke the next ball. The situation demanded a bit of discretion but as his wont, the 'Nawab of Najafgarh' went for the jugular only to deepen India's misery.
Yuvraj Singh started with a majestic six over cover fence off Johan Botha's delivery and for good measure slog-swept Peterson for his second six. Another pulled boundary off Botha's bowling raised visions of a big total. However, a beauty from Morne Morkel meant Yuvraj was back in the pavilion after a quickfire 21.
For South Africa, Peterson and Morkel took two wickets apiece while Jacques Kallis chipped in with one wicket.