Stunning run chase puts India through to semis as Aussies exit at Super 10s
The match in a tweet: King Kohli! A T20 masterclass from Virat seals a semi-final berth despite some heroics from Shane Watson in his final match for #AUS The result: Australia 6-160, lost to India 4-161 by six wickets. The hero: With the weight of more than a billion people on his shoulders, Virat Kohli absorbed the immense pressure and used it as fuel to power yet another incredible innings for his country. Walking out at first-drop to the cheers of a capacity Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Kohli calmly worked his second ball off his pads to the mid-wicket rope for four. He doubled up next ball, square-driving Josh Hazlewood behind point for four more. It would be another 17 deliveries before the right-hander hit his next boundary, in between nurturing singles and twos, before launching Glenn Maxwell straight for six. With 59 needed from five overs, Kohli ransacked a dozen runs off Hazlewood – one boundary and four exhausting twos. A swat off Watson brought up his 50, but there was no cause for celebration. Not yet. A brace of boundaries followed by a towering six changed the entire complexion of the pursuit, handing India the advantage. In the most condensed and frenetic version of the game, Kohli seems to have time to spare, calculating his innings to the delivery. In the penultimate over he squeezed a perfectly fine off-stump yorker behind point for four, then proceeded to hit a three more to the fence to put the result beyond doubt. It was a masterclass in chasing performed by one of the best finishers in history.
The consolation effort: In what turned out to be his final match for Australia, Shane Watson left nothing in the tank. Watson chipped in with 18 off 16 balls, but it was with the ball where he left his mark. Charging in, Watson castled Rohit Sharma, sending the luminous Zing bails flying and celebrating with arms extended and index fingers pointed skyward. Five balls later he had another, this time grazing the glove of Suresh Raina with a pinpoint bouncer through to gloveman Peter Nevill. Even Watson wouldn’t call himself the most mobile player in the squad, but he wound back the years to take a terrific scrambling catch to remove Yuvraj Singh. His last over, the 17th of the run chase, was brilliant; cramping yorkers, clever short balls and a gravely unlucky boundary off his final ball – a thick edge off MS Dhoni’s bat.
The start: After winning the toss and electing to bat, Steve Smith could not have asked for a better opening onslaught from Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja. Khawaja set the tone from ball one, thumping Ashish Nehra to the mid-wicket fence with a meaty pull shot. The elegant left-hander continued the punishment the next over, banishing the stiff-armed Jasprit Bumrah for a hat-trick of boundaries, and one more two balls later for good measure. The pain didn’t stop, Finch finally getting into the act with a four of his own before Khawaja found the rope for the sixth time in 12 balls – his only scoring shots. MS Dhoni tried taking the pace off the ball by introducing off-spinner Ravi Aswhin, but Finch took a liking to what he was sending down, hitting balls three and four over long-on’s head for six. Rattled, Ashwin went leg-side, way leg-side, conceding five wides then another to raise the Australian 50 from 22 legitimate balls inside the fourth over.
The decision: The stage was set perfectly for Smith to continue on from his tremendous undefeated 61 against Pakistan; he entered facing spin, the top order had laid a solid foundation, and the ball was still relatively new. But before he could work his magic the Australia captain was given out caught behind by umpire Marais Erasmus. Smith went back to play a straight drive to left-arm orthodox Yuvraj Singh, played and missed and was fired by the South African official. Snicko later showed no sound as the ball past the inside edge of the bat. A turning point, to say the least.
The middle overs: Again, those pesky middle overs hurt the Aussies. After a rollicking start to see out the powerplay at 1-59, the next nine overs yielded just 55 runs and cost three wickets. Dhoni employed his spinners two-thirds of the overs, who fired in the ball at speeds consistently hitting 100kph. The shot: For a man who has every shot in the book, and then some, it shouldn’t be surprising when Glenn Maxwell plays an audacious switch hit for six. Facing the last ball of the 16th over, which was also the last ball of spin in Australia’s innings, Maxwell swung around and turned Ravindra Jadeja’s final delivery into juicy full toss, one he heaved over cover/cow corner for a maximum. The cameo: Peter Nevill faced only two balls – the final two of Australia’s innings – and displayed the rapid improvement he’s to his limited-overs batting. The first was a ramp-flip off Hardik Pandya over the ‘keeper’s head, the second a lusty blow over the wide long-on rope. The stat: Kohli is the fastest man to 1500 T20 international runs, reaching the milestone from 39 innings to break Chris Gayle’s previous mark of 45 innings.
The wash up: Australia bow out of the tournament with their heads held high. They improved on their 2014 campaign, and if it wasn’t for a few poor overs against the Black Caps, could be progressing instead of packing. India now march to Mumbai, ready to take on the West Indies in what will be a blockbuster semi-final. The momentum is with MS and his men, and on home soil, will be hard to stop progressing to the final in a week’s time.