Holders West Indies rode on the sheer brilliance of centurion Chris Gayle to pull off an upset six-wicket win over South Africa and stride into the final of the Champions Trophy in Jaipur today.
West Indies, who registered their third semi-final victory over the South Africans after wins in the 1998 and 2004 editions, will now meet world champions Australia in the title clash in Mumbai on November 5.
The Caribbeans owed their victory to Gayle who made a mockery of the seemingly competitive target with his breathtaking display of aggressive batting during his unbeaten knock of 133 that came off just 135 balls and contained 17 fours and three sixes.
It was only apt that Gayle hit the winning runs, a powerful four off Robin Peterson, to bring cheers in the West Indian dressing room.
The 27-year-old opener in fact thrashed the daylight out of all the other South African bowlers as the West Indies overhauled the South African total of 258 for 8 with as many as six overs to spare in a completely one-sided contest at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium.
Gayle, playing his 150th ODI, also stitched the highest partnernship of the tournament so far with Shivnarine Chanderpaul of 154 runs before the latter retired hurt with leg cramps on 57.
Also, making merry on the sporting, easy-paced track were Ramnaresh Sarwan who chipped in with a run a ball 27, rendering the South African attack stingless.
The pyrotechnics of the cavalier West Indies' batsmen put to shade the effort of Herschelle Gibbs (77) who shrugged off a form slump and controversy over his first appearance in India in six years owing to match-fixing related allegations and put on 92 runs for the fourth wicket with AB de Villiers (46), the only other notable contributor to the total.
West Indies were off to a flier with the in-form Gayle and Chanderpaul unleashing a flurry of boundaries to dent the confidence of the South African new-ball bowlers who had enjoyed early success in the previous two matches.
In fact, Makhaya Ntini had to be forced off the attack after just three overs which cost a whopping 23 runs and the usually accurate Shaun Pollock also ended up conceding 34 runs in his first spell of five overs.
Gayle, who completed 1000 runs in 2006 when he reached 10, hoisted Pollock over long off for a huge six as West Indies raced to 76 runs in 10 overs.
Chanderpaul on the other end was no less aggressive, his improvised six off Andre Nel to the fine leg boundary underlining their dominance.
Frustrated by the failure of his fast bowlers to effect a breakthrough, skipper Graeme Smith introduced himself into the attack but only to be smashed for two fours on the trot by Gayle who raced to his 29th ODI 50 off just 48 balls with help of seven fours and a six.
Jacques Kallis was also meted out similar treatment as he was smashed over the mid-wicket fence and then hit by a four by Gayle off the first and second balls of the 18th over, the scoreboard reading 116 for no loss.
Chanderpaul also duly completed his 50, the 42nd of his career, with the help of four fours and a six and off 57 balls before retiring hurt on 57.
Sarwan wasted no time in taking the baton from Chanderpaul and struck six fours before being trapped leg before by Ntini, the first success for the hapless South African bowlers.
Gayle continued to bat with flourish and ensured he hit the winning runs.
Earlier, the 32-year-old Gibbs stitched a crucial partnership off 108 balls with de Villiers to put the innings back on track after they had lost their first three wickets with 96 runs on the board.
With rest of the South African batsmen failing to make much of a mark despite the largely lacklustre West Indies attack, credit should go to Gibbs and de Villiers for ensuring a fighting total was put on the board.
Gibbs, touring India for the first time after his name figured in the match-fixing scandal of 2000, anchored the innings for most part before being dismissed in the last over by Dwayne Bravo (2-41). His 90-ball knock contained four fours and a six.
Watching Gibbs return to form from the VIP stands was former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin, himself serving a life ban from the game for alleged match-fixing.
The South Africans were off to a tentative start after electing to bat but made up with some quick scoring in the last 10 overs which fetched them 76 runs.
Openers Smith and Loots Bosman, brought in for Boeta Dippennar and playing his first match of the tournament, appeared to negotiate the new ball well before the South African skipper was sent back by an stinging Jerome Taylor in-swinger.
Smith, who hit three boundaries in his 19-run knock, could not do much as the ball clipped his pads before sharply swinging in to hit the stumps.
The West Indies got another big wicket when Kallis, promoted up the order ahead of Gibbs, lost his composure in the face of some disciplined bowling after scoring 16 off 38 balls with three fours.
Bravo, replacing a rather ineffective Ian Bradshaw (1-58) , teased Kallis into playing a good length ball that got the edge which was caught by an alert Sarwan at third man.
Reduced to a shaky 65 for 2 in the 17th over, Bosman and Gibbs tried to stitch together a substantial partnership before the rookie opener was dismissed for a 58-ball 39 (6x4) by Marlon Samuels who struck off the third ball of his first over.
The bowling change worked perfectly once again for the West Indies as Bosman, who was beginning to cut loose after the initial tentativeness, tried to flick the ball to the leg side but got a leading edge instead, Gayle picking the catch at extra cover.