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Magnificent Kohli powers India into semifinals

Wisden India logo Wisden India 27-03-2016

Virat Kohli lived up to the hype of being probably the greatest chaser in the history of the limited-overs game by scoring a fiery unbeaten 82 in 51 balls under immense pressure to guide India to the semifinals of the ICC World Twenty20 2016 with a six-wicket win over Australia.

Opting to bat first on a batsman-friendly strip at the at the PCA IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali on Sunday (March 27), Australia rode on cameos from Usman Khawaja, Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell, and a string of contributions from their lower order, to reach 160 for 6 on a surface which began to slow down during the course of their innings.

India got off to a shaky start, reaching 49 for 3 from 7.4 overs. Yuvraj Singh hung around and made a crucial 21, but it was Kohli’s unbeaten knock, with nine fours and two sixes, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s 10-ball 18, that carried India to a win which seemed improbable at one stage.

India now face West Indies in the semifinal in Mumbai on March 31.

Earlier, until Ashish Nehra forced Khawaja to drive at a gentle awayswinger and nick to Dhoni, India were on a hiding to nothing. Khawaja set stall with the very first ball of the evening, pulling Nehra through square-leg, though the experienced left-arm paceman got his own back with five successive dots.


Clearly, Khawaja was going to take the fight to India when the ball was hard and new, just about the only time when fluent timing could be guaranteed. Jasprit Bumrah’s second over triggered an avalanche of boundaries with Khawaja the primary enforcer and Finch only marginally behind. Bowling a perfectly hittable length, Bumrah was taken apart by Khawaja much like he had been by Tamim Iqbal in Bangalore, going for four fours to immediately push India on to the back foot.

While Nehra held his own from the pavilion end, Dhoni was at a loss to staunch the flooding at the other. Each of Khawaja’s first six scoring strokes had been a four; feeling somewhat left out, Finch opened his broad shoulders to deposit R Ashwin twice over long-on in the offspinner’s first over. A legside wide that flew to the fence contributed to 22 runs from that over so that Australia had clattered to 53 without loss after four overs.

Dhoni persisted with the parsimonious Nehra for a third over and the move paid off the dangerous Khawaja departed. It was to be a crucial passage; 54 had been realised by the openers in a mere 26 deliveries, with seven fours and two sixes. The next 15.4 overs produced the exact same number of fours and sixes and only 106 more runs as India wended their way back, the discipline in their bowling fusing beautifully with the slowing nature of the track which practically ruled out free-spirited strokeplay.

With Khawaja’s dismissal, the fluency disappeared a little even from Finch’s batting, while David Warner struggled during his brief stay until Ashwin shortened the length when he saw the batsman advancing, and gave the ball enough tweak to set up a simple stumping.

Energised by the twin strikes and lifted by a crowd that was now clearly throbbing, India jacked up the intensity. Dhoni, the master manipulator of resources and fields, pulled out a rabbit in the shape of Yuvraj, who responded with a wicket off his first ball of the tournament, Smith perhaps a little unfortunate to be given out caught behind on the inside-edge when he made no contact with the ball.

India tightened the screws, striking at regular intervals to ensure they kept getting new batsmen out in the middle. Dhoni moved his bowlers like chess pieces, an over here, three overs there, Ashwin ignored with half his quota available, Ravindra Jadeja’s fourth left unutilised as he pinned faith in his faster bowlers. Nehra was impeccable, Bumrah rallied outstandingly well after that nightmare first over, Hardik Pandya held his own until the last two balls when Peter Nevill got stuck into him, and Yuvraj sent down three tidy overs.

All of this meant Australia never found any ballast in the last three-quarters of their essay. Beefy ball-strikes – local hero Maxwell, who took 25 deliveries to smash his first boundary, Watson and finisher Faulkner – all failed to come to terms with the surface, and India had reason to be optimistic at the break.

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