TWENTY20:

IN­DIA IN SEMI­FI­NAL

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With 67 needed off the last six overs, Vi­rat Kohli and MS Dhoni joined hands in what was turn­ing out to be a tricky chase. The match had me­an­dered on till then, swing­ing one way and an­other.

Aus­tralia had a fan­tas­tic start with the bat, be­fore In­dia pulled things back, they had a rous­ing fin­ish but In­dia had a brisk start as well. In­dia’s chase was mo­tor­ing along sat­is­fac­to­rily be­fore Yu­vraj Singh’s in­jury ap­plied the brakes on it. Through it all, In­dia were fac­ing the heat and it was show­ing. There were an­gry ges­tic­u­la­tions all the while, Kohli was get­ting in­creas­ingly frus­trated in a 38-ball stand with Yu­vraj dur­ing which many a dou­ble was missed.

But all that mat­tered for lit­tle when these two joined hands. Not for noth­ing are they re­garded as two of In­dia’s best chasers in his­tory. But even Kohli was feel­ing the heat at that point. What fol­lowed, how­ever, was a mas­ter­class of run­ning be­tween the wick­ets and of chas­ing down a tar­get.

A crit­i­cal point of their part­ner­ship was the ob­vi­ous in­ten­sity with which both of them ran the sec­ond run (six in all) apart from hit­ting the bound­aries. That re­lieved the pres­sure on Kohli, who then went on a bound­ary-ram­page, even as the ask­ing-rate was over 10 runs per over.

At the end of it all, as Dhoni fin­ished with a bound­ary through mid-wicket, an ex­hausted Kohli just dropped to his knees. This was prob­a­bly his most tir­ing knock. He slammed 82 (off 51 balls) and bat­tled ex­haus­tion. In­dia had man­aged to clinch the crunch game against Aus­tralia to en­ter the semi­fi­nal of the ICC World T20 2016 with a six-wicket win at the Pun­jab Cricket As­so­ci­a­tion Ground in Mo­hali.

If the fin­ish was an ex­hil­a­rat­ing one, Aus­tralia’s start with the bat was not in­fe­rior. They opted to bat on a pitch that had a green­ish tinge to it. Both teams went in un­changed and Steven Smith had the luck with the spin of the coin. In opt­ing to bat, Smith echoed Dhoni’s read­ing of the pitch as well. Both cap­tains reck­oned that the pitch would slow down as the game pro­gressed.

It was a 40-over pitch af­ter all, and they weren’t wrong in the read­ing. It did slow down even as Aus­tralia’s in­nings pro­gressed but for the first few overs, Aus­tralia seemed to be run­ning away with the game. Us­man Khawaja reeled off a se­ries of pulled bound­aries as Jasprit Bum­rah was clob­bered for 17 runs in his first over, the sec­ond of the in- nings. And as is the norm these days, Dhoni had to turn to his go-to man in such sit­u­a­tions - Ravichan­dran Ash­win. Many a time, the off­spin­ner has bailed the team out from a weak start by pick­ing wick­ets, but to­day was dif­fer­ent. Aaron Finch, the man who was dropped for Aus­tralia’s first two games, took it upon him­self to take on Ash­win, and did it splen­didly well. His pow­er­ful shots over long on saw Ash­win con­ced­ing back-to-back sixes in an over that cost him 22 runs.

Vi­rat Kohli

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