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March 27, 2016 T20 World Cup: Virat Kohli’s calculated assault sends Australia running for cover and puts India in the last four
Thousands of bowing heads in the electrifying ambience of the PCA Stadium in Mohali told only one story – Virat Kohli’s growth in stature as a cricketing super human.
Kohli’s extraordinary batsmanship, which produced an unbeaten 51-ball 82, carried India to a memorable six-wicket win over Australia on Sunday night and earned the host a place in the World T20 semifinals.
The class of Kohli’s knock, which came amidst extremely difficult circumstances and in a do-or-die match, reminded one of Sachin Tendulkar’s unforgettable assault on Australia in the summer of 1998 in Sharjah.
India staged a tremendous fightback to restrict Australia for 160 for six even though the Aussies were off to a flying start thanks to the pyrotechnics of its combative openers. Kohli contributed half of the runs to shoulder India to a glorious victory with five balls to spare.
For Australia, which is considered a big force in Test and one-day cricket, its attempt to make a mark in the shortest format remained incomplete. The team crashed out of the event and one of its prominent all-rounders Shane Watson retired from international cricket on a disappointing note.
India’s resilience was put through another tough test when Australia relied on an astounding onslaught from its openers Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch to amass 50 runs in less than four overs.
Khawaja was devastation personified. He pulled the first delivery from Ashish Nehra to the square-leg boundary and clubbed Jasprit Bumrah for four fours, including three in a row, to silence the packed PCA Stadium.
Finch stunned the Indians by hitting Nehra on the offside and hoisting Ravichandran Ashwin over long-on for two successive sixes.
However, MS Dhoni and his men showed amazing composure to bounce back.
Old pro Nehra’s love for good length rewarded him with Khawaja’s wicket with the southpaw edging an away going delivery to Dhoni.
India utilised the opening to make further inroads. David Warner’s stumping provided some solace to Ashwin but Dhoni was smart enough not to overuse the wizard and showed faith in alternatives.
Yuvraj Singh, who was yet to exhibit his bowling skills, sparkled immediately, removing the solid Steve Smith and Bumrah sprung back to castle Glenn Maxwell, who took 25 balls to get a boundary, and help his team dry up the runs.
Hardik Pandya frustrated the Australians and dismissed Finch and James Faulkner.
India’s chase was not up to expectation as Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan found it difficult to time the ball well on a slow surface. Their fall within the PowerPlay overs retarded the run-rate.
Suresh Raina fell cheaply but Kohli, along with a struggling Yuvraj, hobbling due to a leg injury, collected 45 runs off 38 deliveries and kept the host in the hunt.
Exploring every opportunity, Kohli reached his second half-century of the tournament before switching gear. With India requiring 39 off 18 balls, a breathtaking Kohli smacked two fours and a six off Faulkner and four fours off Nathan Coulter-Nile to stun the Aussies.
The champion sank to the ground and brought the stadium to its feet when Dhoni hammered the winning runs.
- Y.B. Sarangi
This article was first published in The Hindu on March 28, 2016
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