Title favourites India tonight stormed into the semifinals of the World T20 cricket tournament with a sensational six-wicket victory over Australia in their final group match, relying on Virat Kohli’s batting heroics here today.
After restricting Australia to 160 for 6, Kohli (82 not out) provided the spark with a superlative display of batting to help India overhaul the target with five balls to spare in a thrilling showdown at the I S Bindra Stadium.
India turned the game on its head in the last four overs with the flamboyant Kohli unleashing a flurry of shots to take the game away from the Australians much to the delight of the capacity home crowd. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (18 not out) hit the winning runs — a four — to the wild celebration at the Indian camp as well among the vociferous crowd.
India, who finished second in Super 10 Group 2, will take on the West Indies in the second semifinals in Mumbai on March 31. New Zealand take on England in the first semifinals on March 30 in New Delhi. Let down by a poor start, India were left to get 39 in the last three overs but Kohli got the team home to 162 for four in 19.1 overs. His 82 not out came from 51 balls, studded with nine fours and two sixes. The 18th over bowled by James Faulkner went for 19 runs and that swung the game in the home team’s favour.
The Indians lost openers Shikhar Dhawan (13) and Rohit Sharma (12), who both had not done much in the previous matches, early in the chase. Dhawan top-edged a rising Josh Hazlewood delivery to short fine-leg before Rohit walked out of the crease to find his stumps disturbed off a slower ball by Shane Watson, leaving India at 37 for two in 5.5 overs.
All hopes were now pinned on premier batsman Kohli, who has made it habit of chasing down targets in testing times. He started with a delectable flick and a square drive off Hazlewood, raising hopes of another successful chase through him. He stood strong as Suresh Raina (10) succumbed to the short-ball again, bringing in home hero Yuvraj Singh (21) at 49 for three. The packed crowd at the stadium wore a nervous look when Yuvraj injured his left leg and a physio had to be called for him to treat the pain. The innings required a push with the hosts reaching 65 in 10 overs, needing 96 off the last 60 balls for a famous win. Kohli found the much needed hit when he lofted Maxwell over long off for a maximum. Yuvraj followed his partner by sending leggie Adam Zampa’s full toss for a six between long on and deep midwicket. The left-hander Yuvraj got the big shot but he was clearly struggling and was caught at extra cover to make way for Dhoni in the middle with the team needing 59 off the last 30 balls.
In the end, it proved to just another day in the office for Kohli and Dhoni. Earlier, the Indian bowlers led by Hardik Pandya and Ashish Nehra made a remarkable recovery after leaking runs in the initial overs as they restricted Australia to 160 for 6 in the virtual knock-out match. Australia were cruising at 53 for no loss at the end of the fourth over with Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin conceding 17 and 22 in second and fourth overs respectively but the home bowlers bounced back in the later overs to restrict the Aussies to a competitive total. For Australia, Aaron Finch (43) and Glenn Maxwell (31) were the main contributors as Australia lost the momentum in the later overs. Aaron Finch made 43 off 34 balls at the top while Glenn Maxwell Scored 31 of 28.
Hardik Pandya grabbed two wickets for 36 runs while Ashish Nehra took one wicket for 20 runs in his four overs. With a semifinal berth at stake for both teams, the atmosphere at the stadium was electric as fans flocked to stadium hours before match time. The in-form Usman Khawaja set the tone for the Australia innings by pulling Nehra for four on the very first ball of the match. The seasoned Indian came back well, beating Khawaja twice in the same over.