A whirlwind start, a fightback, and a Kohli special

The calm before the storm - the teams warm up ahead of the ICC WT20 2016 semi-final

The calm before the storm - the teams warm up ahead of the game
©Chetan Narula / Cricket World

India beat Australia by six wickets in Mohali to storm into the semi-finals of the 2016 World T20. They rode on a superlative 82 not out off 51 balls (nine fours, two sixes) from Virat Kohli who turned the chase on its head in the last five overs, as Australia were routed with five balls to spare, despite leading the game for a long while.

Australian Punch, Indian Counter

Steve Smith won the toss and elected to bat first on a slow pitch, but surely not a rank turner. Australia started in whirlwind fashion, with Aaron Finch (43) and Usman Khawaja (26) bringing up the 50-run mark in just four overs. While Ashish Nehra (1-20) used all his experience and guile, the young Jasprit Bumrah (1-32) proved to be expensive as Khawaja smacked him for four fours in the fourth over.

Nehra then had him caught behind, bringing David Warner (6) to the crease who again failed to get going, stumped off Ravichandran Ashwin (1-31). Australia’s run-rate started to slow down, but the real blow came when Steve Smith (2) was adjudged caught behind off Yuvraj Singh (1-19), who was bowling his first over in the tournament. The TV replays couldn’t conclusively prove a fair edge, and the Australian skipper walked back shaking his head.

Finch was still scoring at a 100-plus strike-rate, and Australia were placed at 81 for three at the halfway stage in the innings, setting up for a few overs in the death. But he got out against the run of play, pulling to midwicket off Hardik Pandya (2-36) in the 13th over. It set back the Australian plans, perhaps more than they would have liked, with Glenn Maxwell (31) and Shane Watson (18 not out) coming together for the last seven overs.

They added only 30 runs, as Bumrah bowled Maxwell in his second spell. That was the second turning point for Australia, in the sense that his wicket was the different between a score of 180-plus and that they eventually finished at 160 for six.

It was down to Watson, James Faulkner (10) and Peter Neville (10 not out) throwing their bats around, with 46 runs coming in the last five overs.

The Virat Kohli Special

After Australia’s whirlwind start, it was a superb comeback from India to restrict them to their eventual score. But 161 was always going to be a tricky chase, with the opening partnership crucial to the hosts’ plans. As it turned out, Shikhar Dhawan (13) and Rohit Sharma (12) couldn’t get over their indifferent form in this tournament.

As such, after a sedate start, India were struggling at 49 for three in the eighth over, with Australia’s short ball ploy sending Suresh Raina (10) back cheaply as well. Yuvraj Singh (21) then came to the crease, and while he stayed at the wicket for some time, his partnership with Kohli wasn’t very productive. The left-hander had twisted his ankle while running and had to receive medical attention twice just to be able to carry on.

They added 45 runs off 38 deliveries, but it was easy to see that Yuvraj’s injury was hampering him from running hard between the wickets. It was also irritating Kohli no end, for he couldn’t put pressure on the fielders and convert his singles into doubles.

As a result, India began to lag behind and the asking rate climbed. Then, in the 14th over, Watson (2-23) took a nice catch running backwards to dismiss Yuvraj. The chase turned thereafter.

MS Dhoni (18 not out) joined Kohli in the middle, and the two pulled off a stunning heist to unravel Australia’s dominance thus far. Their partnership was worth 67 runs in a mere 31 balls, and the highlight was their running between the wickets. Suddenly, Australia’s fielders were tense in the middle as runs started to flow.

And once Kohli reached his half-century off just 39 balls, he upped the ante further. India still needed that one big over, and he took 19 runs off James Faulkner (1-35) in the 18th over, balancing the equation. Next over, he smacked four boundaries off Nathan Coulter-Nile (1-33) to assert himself on the evening, highlighting what a special knock it was that ousted Australia from the tournament.

What This Means

Quite simply, India finished second in Group Two and are now in the semi-finals of the World T20, with the Super 10 stage finishing off. The one remaining game on Monday, between South Africa and Sri Lanka is meaningless, as we already know our four semi-finalists.

New Zealand will play England in the first semi-final in Delhi on Wednesday, while India will take on West Indies in the second semi-final in Mumbai on Thursday.

India v Australia, Mohali

©Chetan Narula / Cricket World

© Cricket World 2016